Blatche says knee is "better" as Gilas looks to win two straight
SEVILLE, Spain - After a pair of heartbreaking losses to Croatia and Argentina and a competitive defeat to Greece, Gilas Pilipinas is off to a 0-3 start in their 2014 FIBA World Cup campaign in Seville, Spain.
But despite the trio of losses, positivity still looms in Gilas' camp thanks to the team's strong and unexpected play so far in the tournament, where they have turned the heads of many with their unpredictable fast-paced style of play that had some members of the Croatian team ask, "Who are these guys?"
Gilas has managed to stay at a competitive level against their adversaries despite the nagging knee problem of Andray Blatche, who suffered the injury towards the end of the first half against Croatia following a drive to the rim.
Other than the NBA big man, other members of the squad are also fighting through injuries. Marc Pingris suffered a twisted ankle against Argentina, in which he totaled 0 points, while Ranidel De Ocampo battled leg cramps despite top-scoring for Gilas with 18 markers. Jayson Castro's ankle that he hurt during preliminaries is also not at full health.
During the team's practice on Tuesday afternoon, September 2, Blatche informed Rappler that his knee is feeling better compared to the prior day.
"The knee is better. Got some treatment down. It's not as painful, it actually feels okay," said the team's starting center, who added that he is in better spirits after Tuesday morning's emotionally-draining loss - one where Gilas managed to climb back from a 15-point deficit thanks to his scoring and Jimmy Alapag's five triples in the second half.
"I feel better. Last night I was a little down at the beginning, disappointed with myself. I felt like I could've done more to help the team win."
Blatche finished with 14 points and hauled down 15 rebounds despite sitting out most of the first half after committing two quick fouls in the first period - the latter of which was against Luis Scola, who led Argentina with 19 points.
After their lone rest day, Gilas is back in action when they take on Puerto Rico on September 3, Wednesday, at 7:30 pm (PH time).
Blatche indicates the Philippine team has no plans of losing against the Puerto Ricans or settling for moral victories, and the same can be said for their match the following evening, September 4, Thursday (PH time), against Senegal to close out their preliminary round schedule.
"We're expecting to win out. We have a plan of winning the next two games," a confident Blatche promised the media. "We have to win the next two games so we can advance. Tomorrow, there's no holding back. Full throttle."
Gilas Pilipinas could still advance to the Round of 16 by winning out along with some help from Argentina, who would have to defeat Senegal on Thursday (PH time).
Blatche currently leads the World Cup league leaders in rebounding with 13.7 RPG to go with 21.0 PPG, good for fifth best in the tournament (Pau Gasol is at the top with 23.7 PPG).
But the big man is unhappy with his overall production, stating he needs to do better in order to help his squad reach the next round of the competition.
"It's tough. I gotta do a better job at reading (the) defense. Like last night, they put Andres Nocioni on me and whenever I drove they have the other guys step up," Blatche stated.
"I gotta do a better job at reading the defense and finding the open man," added Blatche, who's putting up just 0.3 APG so far in Seville.
Gilas is 10th in the World Cup in assists with just 10.7 APG (USA is first with 20.5 APG). But turnovers remain the biggest concern for Gilas, which is coughing up the ball at a too-high 14.3 TOPG average. - Rappler.com with reports from Naveen Ganglani