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MANILA, Philippines – The 2023 FIBA World Cup debut of Gilas Pilipinas mainstay CJ Perez against Angola signaled great things to come last Sunday, August 27.
Completely benched in the Philippines’ first game against the Dominican Republic, the 2019 World Cup hero quickly picked up the pace the moment his number was called against the Angolans, scoring all 7 of his points up until the point Gilas peaked with an early 28-17 second-quarter lead.
Although Perez at that point led all players in scoring, his energy, however, failed to spread to his teammates quickly enough, as a lethargic second half doomed Gilas to a 16-point third-quarter deficit which it never recovered from despite a late surge.
Although the two-time PBA scoring champion was pleased with his individual effort in a limited 11-minute run, he rued that Gilas as a whole just lost sight of the simple things that made its first-half run show promising signs in the first place.
“We lost, so of course, I’m not that happy,” Perez said after the game. “[Angola] was really physical with their play.”
“I’m always ready, but we just lost in rebounding, turnovers. We were not able to protect the ball that well.”
As Gilas head coach Chot Reyes pointed out later in the postgame presser, Angola did not have a significant advantage in most facets of the game, but its 20 offensive rebounds “were just too painful.”
Turnovers, too, were not much of a bigger problem over at the Filipinos’ side – having 15 to Angola’s 11 – but Perez was responsible for a game-high 4 miscues in just his 11-minute appearance, hence his special mention on that area as one for improvement.
Like its encounter with the Dominicans before Angola, Gilas essentially bungled two great winning opportunities due to breaks of the game, which, in perfect hindsight, could have been easily corrected mid-game.
Perez and the rest of Gilas, however, don’t have much time left for lookbacks as world No. 10 Italy is fast approaching to kill the Philippines’ title hopes for good on Tuesday, August 29.
Gilas should be able to adapt on the fly like the rest, before its World Cup hosting gig becomes even gloomier for Filipino fans than it already is. – Rappler.com