In the first of their two Group H games in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifying Tournament, India suffered a 19-point loss to Saudi Arabia.
The final score was 80-61 as India's offence struggled to take off and was unable to find consistency after finding some rhythm in the second quarter.
🕺🏻🕺🏻 🕺🏻This is how much it means for @sbfksa 🇸🇦#FIBAAsiaCup 2021 pic.twitter.com/Nhl25LzXSY- 🏀FIBA Asia Cup (@FIBAAsiaCup) August 20, 2021
With the loss, tomorrow's game (Aug. 21) against Palestine becomes a must-win. It could possibly not be enough as the tie-breaker between two nations with an identical record would be the point-differential.
That said, here are a few talking points from the game.
Bench spark first-half comeback
India fell behind early, trailing in the second quarter by 15 points - Saudi Arabia's largest lead in the first half.
However, powered by their bench, India seemed to have found some rhythm in the second quarter. After getting outscored 20-8 in the first quarter, they battled back into the game by outscoring Saudi Arabia 22-16 in the second quarter.
MORE: India's track record at the Asia Cup
The bench duo of Joginder Singh (6) and Sahaij Pratap Singh Sekhon (6) scored or assisted on 14 of the team's 22 points, which brought the deficit down to just six (36-30) and made the game competitive once again.
At the final buzzer, the bench duo were the game's top performers and the only double-digit scorers for India. Singh finished with team-high tallies of 17 points and four assists while Sekhon pitched-in with 15 on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.
Both players were also money from beyond the arc, knocking down seven of the team's nine 3s at an efficiency of 58.3 percent.
India's two-way struggles
In the end, India's play on both ends contributed to the loss.
Not including Singh and Sekhon, India shot 10-for-39 from the field, including 2-for-13 from long distance. They were outrebounded 48-32, which led to a -11 (17-6) differential in second-chance points, and turned the ball over 18 points, which led to 17 points.
India was outscored 46-18 in the paint with Saudi Arabia's eight blocks being a huge reason for that.
Saudi big man dominates
Saudi Arabia center Mohammad Alsuwailem was the game's top performer. Playing 28 minutes, he stuffed the stat sheet and contributed across the board.
👋 Ouch 😤 Not in this guy's house 🏠 🇸🇦@sbfksa #FIBAAsiaCup 2021- 🏀FIBA Asia Cup (@FIBAAsiaCup) August 20, 2021
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The 6-foot-10 big man finished with a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds while also recording five blocks and three assists.
Pranav Prince's injury
The NBA Academy India graduate, one of three NBA Academy alumni on the roster, checked into the game in the first quarter.
With his athleticism and speed, the 6-foot 7 forward made an instant impact on the game in what was his debut for the senior national team. However, his debut was cut short after just one minute of playing time.
While contesting a shot, he suffered a hard fall and seemed to have sustained a serious hand injury which didn't allow him to return to the game.
For the latest updates on his injury, stay tuned to NBA.com/India.
There's still hope
Despite the loss, India is not out of it. In less than 24 hours, they take the floor once again against Palestine.
Catch the live action by creating Free account on LBTV https://t.co/WPRPeqPBkG- #IndiaBasketball (@BFI_basketball) August 20, 2021
FIBA ASIA CUP 2021 QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
PLE Vs IND
Saturday, 21th August 2021
Venue - King Abdullah Sports City Hall, Jeddah#fibaasiacup2021 #fibaasiacup2021qualifiers pic.twitter.com/khQVaZeKng
India must not only win the second game but also need the final game of the group between Saudi Arabia and Palestine (Sunday IST) to go in their favour.
Even with a Palestine win on Sunday, India can still advance to the Asia Cup next year, if their point differential is better.
Feature Image courtesy FIBA.com
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