MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas showed promise against the defending European champions but ultimately fell short to the NBA laden France squad, 75-68, in the opening game of the 2014 Antibes International Basketball Tournament.
Despite missing Jayson Castro due to injury, Gilas held a 39-35 halftime lead over France, which fielded Boris Diaw of the San Antonio Spurs, Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic, Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trailblazers and other NBA veterans.
Andray Blatche, Gilas’ naturalized big man who most recently played for the Brooklyn Nets, was their aggressive, tipping in his side’s first basket of the game. The small Filipino contingent on hand made their presence known moments later when LA Tenorio connected to his Barangay Ginebra teammate Japeth Aguilar for a powerful one-handed dunk. (RELATED: Gilas big Marc Pingris reunites with Dad in France)
Paul Lee’s over-aggressiveness on defense cost him early as he picked up three fouls in the first quarter. Jimmy Alapag, who was recently left off the Gilas roster for the Asian Games, drained a three at the end of the first quarter but France still held a 22-20 lead.
Back-to-back threes from Jeff Chan in the second quarter sparked a Gilas run that carried them into halftime.
The Gilas side held their breaths when Blatche hit the floor near the end of the third quarter with what appeared to be a sprained ankle. Blatche would return but the bounce in his step wasn’t as pronounced as it had been earlier.
The France squad, with its home crowd watching, would not be embarrassed however. With France’s lead a precarious 70-67, French Leaguer Antoine Diot hit a big three inside the two-minute mark.
Gilas’ scoring went cold from there, sealing their fate.
Nice effort tonight vs France. Need to keep improving & play better vs Australia tom— Chot Reyes (@coachot) August 15, 2014
Blatche and Lee both scored 12 to lead the Philippines, while Batum top-scored for France with 16 to go along with 12 rebounds.
Gilas will wrap up the four nation tournament with games against Australia and Ukraine, which will serve as a tuneup for the FIBA World Cup, which takes place in Spain from August 30-September 14. – Rappler.com
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