Previewing Gilas Pilipinas’ opposition in FIBA Asia round two

Ignacio Dee
Previewing Gilas Pilipinas’ opposition in FIBA Asia round two
Gilas Pilipinas will face stern tests in round two. Is the book already out on how to play the Philippine nationals?

MANILA, Philippines – So it is the full-court press, that bane of previous national teams, that whipped the Philippine squad into merciless form to crush Hong Kong and Kuwait and propel them into the second round of the 2015 FIBA Asia championship.

It is something new for the dribble-set plays or the dribble-drive one sees in the recent national teams. But in Cebu’s basketball scene, the full court press has been a vaunted weapon of colleges and universities in the national inter-collegiate play. 

What better way to rattle teams who are not experienced like Hong Kong and Kuwait? The Philippines has the depth to keep this press going as shown in the duo or platoon substitutions. But, have the Philippines tipped their hand quite early in showing that the team, a notorious bad finisher in international ball, has this weapon? 

Japan will test the Philippines’ full court press and whatever defenses it has when they battle at 4:30 pm Sunday, September 27. And then Iran, with threats from in the outside and inside, on Monday at 11:45 am 

(READ: Gilas Pilipinas second round FIBA Asia schedule)

The Japanese have a nimble big man, 6-foot-9 Joji Takeuchi, who shone with 22 points and 19 rebounds as he played the whole game in beating India, 83-65. Yuta Tabuse, a veteran guard, backed Takeuchi with heady plays spiced by 10 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds. 

India got the jump on Japan in the early minutes of their game but Japan’s gutsy defense allowed them to grab a 39-32 halftime lead. India cut the lead in the third quarter but Japan roared back in the fourth period for the much-needed win.

Japan and the Philippines carry over 1-1 win-loss records from their group into the second round. In their Group E lurks fearsome Iran and surprise package Palestine, both 2-0. India and Hong Kong are in last place with 0-2. 

The Philippines used the full-court press off-and-on against Kuwait, switching to a zone in the third but the Kuwait five were able to end a long scoring drought. The Philippines squared its shoulders and used superior skill to win its second game above 100 points, 110-64. 

The Philippines will be on war footing from now despite the top four teams in the second round Group E will enter into the finals. It is quite far-fetched to expect India and Hong Kong to challenge. 

In the other second round Group F, China and Qatar, both 2-0; Lebanon and South Korea, both 1-1 rule the roost with Kazakhstan and Jordan bringing up the rear.  

But this national squad, like some of their predecessors, become overconfident, especially against Palestine, which rolled out their few plays perfectly, including that beautiful bounce pass that resulted in the go-ahead basket in the last 20 seconds.

Sometimes, the team shuffles their feet on defense. A few times there is no take-charge guy in offense, especially when Andray Blatche starts losing gas. Coach Tab Baldwin has been managing Blatche’s energies: using him for a long stretch, then resting him, then putting him back into the lineup. It’s like Blatche is getting a mini-workout to make sure he is ready for the crucial second round games.  

Jayson Castro is the leader as his backcourt partner Terrence Romeo, so explosive in the Estonia pocket tournament and the Jones Cup has yet to get his hearings. Calvin Abueva’s explosive offense will be needed, plus the sniping of veteran Dondon Hontiveros and Ranidel de Ocampo. 

Marc Pingris, who has surprisingly has been sluggish and was rapped on the forehead by a Kuwaiti, will have to be at the top of his game against Japan and Iran, like Asi Taulava, the experienced slotman. 

The next 3 days will be very crucial for the Philippine team’s campaign to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics for the first time since 1972. –

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