Kazakhstan’s journey to the 2014 Asian Games final four

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If you told me before the 2014 Incheon Asian Games started that Kazakhstan was going to be one of the top four basketball countries in Asia, I would have shrugged it off as good humour.

But this Kazakhstan team is no joke. by using impressive strategies and a “luck of the draw”, Kazakhstan has earned itself a birth in the final four of the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. They will face the best Asian basketball team in Asia, Iran. But nonetheless, Kazakhstan will have a shot at a medal in men’s basketball at this year’s Asian Games.

Kazakhstan 2014 Incheon Asian Games men’s basketball roster

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Kazakhstan was part of Group B in the qualifying round along with India, Palestine and Saudi Arabia. They looked great in their opening match against Saudi Arabia, beating them by 20 points. Their next game against Palestine was another victory, this time by 12. It was the game against India that caught us all by surprise. They would lose by 19 points to India. Credit India for playing a great game, but Kazakhstan knew exactly what they were doing. They also knew by how much they had to lose by against India. The 19 points loss to India meant Kazakhstan would finish second in the group. Remember that the top two teams of each group advance to the next round. India’s prize for winning Group B was a trip to Group E with two of the top teams in the tournament in Iran and Philippines. The consolation prize for Group B was a trip to Group C with China and Chinese Taipei (one of the weaker groups of the tournament).

Of course India struggled in Group E losing to both Philippines and Iran (nothing shocking there) but over in Group C, Kazakhstan was able to beat Chinese Taipei. They would lose to China in the next game but China rewarded Kazakhstan with a win against Chinese Taipei. With a win over Chinese Taipei, China ranked as the top seed of group C while Kazakhstan advanced as the second seed of the group.

By winning Group C, China was placed in Group G with Iran, Japan and Mongolia. Another second place finish in the previous group for Kazakhstan meant they would advance to Group H, which is a slightly weaker group than Group G. Group H included South Korea, Philippines, Qatar and Kazakhstan. It’s strange, up until this point, Kazakhstan has yet to finish first in a group but have been able to land in groups that have weaker competition.

Group H and Group G were quarterfinal rounds. Each group, Group G and Group H consisted of four teams. The end result would be the top team from each group would play the second best team of the opposite group in the semi-finals.

Ideally, Kazakhstan wanted to win the group to avoid Iran in the semi-finals but a three-point loss to South Korea meant they had to come up with another plan. Little did they know, the Philippines gave Kazakhstan a massive gift by losing to Qatar. Now, if Kazakhstan beats Qatar in the next game, their chances of seeding second in Group H are very, very high. Well, they would go on to beat Qatar 65-57 and with a Philippines loss to South Korea, Kazakhstan was now in the driver seat for that second spot in Group H. The only way the Philippines could advance is if they beat Kazakhstan by 11 points. Eleven was the magic number.

On September 28th, 2014 at Hwaseong Sports Complex in South Korea, the Philippines played Kazakhstan in a game that didn’t come down to a win or a loss. Kazakhstan didn’t care if they lost the game by ten and Philippines didn’t want to win the game unless it was by 11. It was a game of point spread, and that point spread was 11.

Kazakhstan trailed the entire game by double digits. At one point, the Philippines led the game by 18-points. It looked like they were going to pull it off. But Kazakhstan went on a 9-0 run in the final two minutes of the game to cut the Philippines lead to a single possession. All the Philippines could hope for was to bring the game into overtime and win by 11 points there. So what they did was something I had never seen before in basketball. Marcus Douthit, under orders from his coach (who confirmed with a Korean referee that this would be a legal move) deliberately laid the ball into his own basket tying the game and sending the game into overtime. Well, so they had thought.

After further review from the scorestable, according to FIBA rules article 16.2.3, “if a player deliberately scores a field-goal in his team’s own basket, it is a violation and the goal does not count”.

The non-basket resulted in a turnover that eventually sent Kazakhstan to the free throw line after an intentional foul by the Philippines. Kazakhstan would air-ball both free-throws to prevent the tie (and overtime period) and watched the clock run-out to the happiest loss in Kazakhstan basketball history.

At 19:07 you can watch Marcus Douthit shoot the ball into his own hoop

Despite losing by two-points, Kazakhstan’s team was celebrating at mid-court. But don’t hate the player, hate the game. They have schooled FIBA’s quotient rule all the way to the semi-finals of the Asian Games.

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Nick Bedard (@bedardnick) is the editor-in-chief of Basketballbuddha.com.

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