MANILA, Philippines – When Andray Blatche picked off Tony Parker’s first pass of the game and hightailed it to the opposite end of the floor for a dunk, it signified one thing — the Philippines would be in France’s face all game long.
For the Philippines to have a chance to steal the game, they needed 3 things — to have a good start, to have those triples find the bottom of the net, and keep the game close.
They accomplished that by staying aggressive, battling inside, hitting long range bombs, and moving the ball around. Yet at the end, France’s talent, class, and experience shone through.
Tony Parker may be past his prime but he certainly brought it (21 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal versus 5 turnovers). When France needed a big bucket, more often than not, he drilled it. The way he saw the floor, read the defense, and looked for the mismatches showed a player of the highest order.
There was an instance where Terrence Romeo took his eye off Parker for a nano-second. When he returned his gaze, the French point guard was on his way to a lay-up with Ranidel De Ocampo a second too late to block the shot. He gave as good as he was given.
After a Blatche triple that followed his opening game steal and dunk, Parker answered with a triple of his own.
When the Philippines’ double teaming efforts forced Boris Diaw farther away from the post, De Colo, Thomas Huertel, Mickael Gelebale, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Kim Tillie attacked the interior. (WATCH: Gilas Pilipinas vs France highlights)
There was an instance (6:30 mark of the fourth period) where Diaw was hovering just below the 3-point line. He threw the ball — notice how they lob those passes where no one can pick it off — inside to Mickael Gelabale who posted up De Ocampo then hit a turn-around baseline jumper. Diaw made a name for himself when he was with the Phoenix Suns for his smooth moves inside the paint and court vision.
Nando De Colo carried the scoring in the second and third periods where France took control of the game. And he did it on both ends of the floor (27 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals). His two steals in the end game sealed the deal for France.
There was a time when neither Parker or De Colo were on the floor but they still got by for a while with Heurtel and Antoine Diot; that underscored their depth and talent that goes beyond their NBA players.
One of the adjustments Les Bleus made, rather than trade long range shots with the Philippines (as the team in blue shot a poor 25% from the outside) or try to beat them one on one, was to go to their biggest advantage — pound the ball inside. How many drop step moves did Diaw perform? Kim Tillie and Joffrey Lauvergne made a living off the double teams on Diaw. Parker and De Colo posted up their man every chance they got. They played them physical and showed that sleight of hand (simpleng gulang in the vernacular).
That was the difference: 54 points in the paint to the 34 of the Philippines. That resulted in a 54% accuracy in their field goals.
I thought that the Philippines gave them a lot of trouble by continuously fighting.
I loved their willingness to take it to the rack – Jason Castro, Ray Parks, Terrence Romeo. In fact, France got into the penalty situation ahead of the Philippines in the first and second periods. The speedier Filipinos gave France trouble. When Romeo and Parks would drive down the baseline, France guarded against the reverse lay-up but the Filipinos found the cutters from the weak side. Quite a few players hit open shots.
France only had one more rebound, 38-37, and Gilas beat them on the offensive boards 19-14.
The ball screen defense was great. I thought that Gilas was almost always in front of their man.
The bench came through, getting contributions from almost everyone; the Philippines got 33 bench points (the bulk of that coming from Romeo who finished with 19). Troy Rosario and Ray Parks gave a very good account of themselves.
Some of the old reliables came through — Jeff Chan, De Ocampo, Gabe Norwood.
That 3-point shot was a huge weapon with timely shots falling all throughout. Towards the end of the match, Parker raced down to guard against the drive but Chan pulled up for a triple. And Diaw, perhaps unsure of what De Ocampo could do, gave him the space. Bang!
But at the end of the day, France was just too much. Les Bleus took the 93-84 win, and get one foot into the next round.
For the Philippines, there are positives to take from that: that good start, have those outside shots fall that are crucial to their spacing, and staying close to the fifth best team in the world.