Monday, February 11, 2013

Niigata Albirex BB 65 at Tokyo Cinq Reves 63 (bj League) - February 10, 2013

When the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear fallout hit Japan nearly two years ago, the Tokyo Apache used the situation to pull up stakes and depart the bj League for good. That left the capital city without a team for the 2011-12 season, but the powers that be were able to get an expansion club started in time for this campaign.

Known as the Tokyo Cinq Reves (Five Dreams in French), the team signed Apache star Kohei Aoki to try and win back the faithful, but they lack the regular home venue that made the Apache easier to visit. Over the season, they will make use of nine different gymnasiums in the greater Tokyo area, with six of those hosting just a single weekend series. Such was the case this weekend when the Eastern Division leaders, Niigata Albirex BB, visited the Cinq Reves, who used the Komazawa Olympic Gymnasium for the first and only time this season. The Komazawa area is where I played ball hockey for the first ten years I lived in Japan so I thought it fitting that my last day on this Tokyo trip would see me revisit the area.

Komazawa Olympic Gymnasium

The 1964 Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo and many of the venues used then are still around today, the most notable being the National Stadium. Although south of the city, the Komazawa area was home to a few sports,with the Komazawa Olympic Gymnasium holding the wrestling matches. The gymis located about 10 minutes from Komazawa Daigaku station on the Denentoshi line, which is the continuation of the Hanzomon subway line past Shibuya. This is not a common destination for tourists, which is a shame as the park is great for those who wish to exercise in the outdoors. There are cycling, jogging, and walking paths that are quite busy on the weekends and well worth a visit if you are in Tokyo for an extended period.

Of course, for me on this day, watching basketball was the primary concern. There are four seating choices for most Cinq Reves home games regardless of the venue, but with each gym being so small, it makes no sense to spend more than 2,000 yen ($22 with the weak yen) for the upper level unreserved seats. I arrived an hour or so before game time and had no trouble finding a good spot. One half of the gym has blue seats, the other half has green and naturally the home team fans take one side (blue in this case). It made for an interesting sight as about 90 percent of the 1,206 fans seemed to be on the blue side of the venue.

The only advantage of getting there early is securing a decent seat. As you look around, you might notice that the roof of the gym is quite interesting, with dozens of air vents making it look like a spaceship coming in for a landing.

Otherwise, there is nothing much here. Food and drink can be brought in from outside as there wasn't much on offer. Still, I'm glad I was able to see a game here, my 64th venue in Japan in honour of the '64 Olympics.

The Game

Niigata led the East with a 23-8 record and was coming off a 101-70 thrashing of the Five Dreams (11-20) the night before. When a rout opens these doubleheaders, often the winning team is satisfied and the losing team wants to rebound from the embarrasment so the second game is much closer. That was the case today when both teams started at a quick pace but neither was able to build a big lead. In fact, throughout the whole game, the biggest spread was just 8 points.

Albirex (in white with orange trim above) led by 1 after the first quarter and then by 2 at halftime despite shooting very poorly from inside the arc. The difference was that they were getting lots of second and third chances as their offensive rebounding was strong. The third quarter ended with Albirex up 55-52 and it looked like a good final 10 minutes was on tap, but that is when both teams went into a shooting funk, which kept the game close at least. With about four minutes left, the game was tied at 60. Then the time out barrage started.

The final four minutes of the game took about 20 minutes to play as there were at least eight time outs called, which destroyed the flow in what had been a fast-paced battle. In the end, Tokyo had a chance to tie or win with the last possession, but a 3-point shot rimmed out and Niigata held on for the 65-63 win. For those into numerology, each team scored one point on the other side of 64, no doubt they were recognizing my 64th venue in Japan.

Seriously though, this was a good game for the first 36 minutes with several lead changes. Niigata took 26 of 55 possible offensive rebounds, which was their key to victory as they shot under 30 percent from 2-point range but were able to garner multiple opportunities on a single possession.


Cinq Reves is not a particularly catchy name, but it sounds like "thankless" when chanted by the Japanese fans.

Next Up

I'm flying to Dallas today to begin a 2-week trip with at least one game every day, starting with the Hawks at the Mavs. This trip will help me put a dent in the NBA stadiums I've yet to see with five on the list. As well, I'll see some college baseball as that season starts next weekend. Throw in some minor league hockey and it should be another great journey. Follow along for regular updates.



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