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P. LEAGUE+ & T1 LEAGUE/Dreamers' 17-point comeback win expose Lioneers' Achilles heel again

03/05/2023 09:26 PM
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Formosa Taishin Dreamers
Formosa Taishin Dreamers' Turkish big man Ilkan Karaman (left) and Anthony Benett of the Hsinchu Jko Lioneers face off against each other Sunday in Taichun. Photo: PLG

Taipei, March 5 (CNA) When the Hsinchu Jko Lioneers took a 17-point lead early in the first quarter against Formosa Taishin Dreamers at Taichung Intercontinental basketball dome Sunday, they almost certainly did not expect to go home disappointed again.

Despite twice establishing a double-digit lead, the Hsinchu team failed to capitalize, throwing away their won advantage in the second and fourth quarters, with the Turkish Dreamer Ilkan Karaman scoring a career high 46 points and 16 rebounds to rally his team for a 111-93 comeback win.

In the last quarter, the Dreamers outplayed the visiting team 43-20.

Commenting on his monster game, Karaman said he was "speechless," but took pride in the Dreamers' great teamwork and thanked fans for their support.

With the victory, the Dreamers have won six out of 10 games in the Lunar New Year, a major improvement for a team that previously sat fifth with a 5-10 record in the six-team P.LEAGUE (PLG).

However, the Taichung team's dream comeback win represented a seventh consecutive loss for the Lioneers, whose 1-9 record since the Chinese traditional holiday has seen the Hsinchu club fall from third to fifth in the league, heading only Jeremy Lin's Kaohsiung 17LIVE Steelers.

Lioneers captain Oscar Kao in Sunday
Lioneers captain Oscar Kao in Sunday's game in Taichung. Photo: PLG

The Lioneers might have good reason for the recent slump, as their guards Oscar Kao (高國豪) and Tien Hao (田浩) were both injured in late January and missed eight and four games, respectively. However, the problem the team faces seems far more deep-rooted.

In short, the Lioneers have trouble holding onto a lead however big.

On Nov. 29, the team led the Steelers for the entire game except for 34 seconds. Despite once having an 18 point lead, the game still ended up a one-pointer as the Southern port city out-muscled its rival 33-19 in the fourth quarter.

The same thing almost happened in the Lioneers' games against the Taipei Fubon Braves and the New Taipei Kings on Jan. 8 and Jan. 14. Even though the Lioneers led by as much as 27 and 16 points in those games, in the end, they only held on for one and two point wins, respectively.

Video source: PLG

As commentators have pointed out, when the Lioneers establish an early lead in games they usually depend on their imports, often 2013 NBA first overall pick Anthony Bennett, who tends to run out of steam in the last quarter.

As a result, the Lioneers have scored less than their rivals by 5.2 points in the fourth quarter, where all PLG teams are allowed to have only one import on the court.

The Braves, the only other team to score less than its opponents in the fourth quarter, average 1.9 points less than the other sides.

Similarly, the Lioneers are the only PLG team whose imports combined for more than half its total points. Prior to Sunday, their imports racked up 46.4 points per game, while their local players scored only 43, according to GC.Basket.

In other words, the Lioneers rely too much on their imported players, and as a result those players are often exhausted at the end of games.

If the Lioneers are really to "trust the process" and let their local young players shoulder more responsibility as they claimed last December, the road ahead appears long and it looks as though Lioneers' fans will have their patience sorely tested.

(By Chao Yen-hsiang)


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