CHANGSHA, CHINA – Philippines’ star Andray Blatche overcame a badly twisted ankle to log an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, carrying his team past Japan 73-66 in the Asia basketball championships second round in Changsha, China, on Sunday.
Japan looked like it might pull off an unlikely victory when the U.S-born Blatche was forced to the bench for an extended period in the third quarter, but 15 turnovers and a lack of offensive cohesion cost Japan the chance to take a major scalp and a big step toward securing a quarterfinal slot.
Blatche was well supported by Ranidel De Ocampo’s 13 points and Jayson William’s 12.
Japan once again got an excellent effort by Joji Takeuchi, who logged his third double-double of the tournament (13 points, 11 rebounds), but his five turnovers were very costly. Japan was led by 17 points from shooting guard Makoto Hiejima.
The Philippines got off to a good start, building a seven-point lead early in the first period, but Japan roared back to take an 18-14 lead at the close of the quarter, finishing with an 11-0 run.
Japan kept the momentum into the second, yet the Philippines worked its way back into the game, despite Blatche being forced to the bench by injury.
At the end of the first half the Philippines was back in front, 35-33.
Blatche hobbled to the bench for a second time in the third and the Philippines again responded, building a 54-46 lead to close the quarter. Japan’s poor ball security during the third period was costly as it allowed the Philippines to establish a lead that would prove insurmountable.
Japan did pull level on a Ryoma Hashimoto three with less than three minutes to play in the fourth, but De Ocampo answered back immediately with a three of his own and Japan would not get that close again.
Earlier on Sunday, India handed Palestine its first loss of the tournament, 73-70. India was again led by Amjyot Singh, who scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, the most points scored in a game at the 2015 championships so far.
India’s victory means Japan will have to win both remaining second-round games, on Monday against Palestine and Tuesday against Hong Kong, to ensure it has a chance to progress to the quarterfinals.