MANILA, Philippines – After leading France past Gilas Pilipinas on the opening day of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Tuesday, July 5, former NBA Finals MVP Tony Parker gave praise to the Philippine crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena and to the guards of the country’s national team.
Parker received loud cheers during the pre-game introductions as expected, but those instantly turned to jeers every time he touched the ball following the opening tip.
“It was unbelievable. The crowd was great,” Parker said anyway during the post-game press conference. “I was looking forward to the game. Obviously basketball is the number one sport in Philippines and it was a big game for them.”
Parker finished with 21 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. France trailed by 10 in the first half after getting hit by an early onslaught from a Philippine side which played with more energy to start the game.
Led by Parker’s mastery of the pick-and-roll, the Frenchmen rallied late in the second period to take a two-point lead to the halftime break. France then extended its lead to as much as 13 in the third period before holding on late in the fourth quarter for the win.
“First of all, I want to [congratulate] the Philippines. They had a great game,” was the first sentence Parker said in the post-game presser. “They had a great game. They were on fire in the first half. They played with a lot of energy, and you have to give a lot of credit to them.”
Nando de Colo led all scorers with 27 points. France shot 54% from the field but its reserves were out-scored by Gilas’ bench, 33-24.
“You can be proud about the team,” Parker also said. “They played a great game, they made it tough on us, and we had to dig deep to try to get the W.”
Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
The 34-year-old Parker was also complimentary of his opposition on the other end of the court. Jayson Castro held his own against the NBA star with 14 points and 3 assists, while Terrence Romeo had 19 points and scored 6 points in an important stretch when the Philippines rallied in the last quarter.
“They were pretty good. They were very aggressive,” said Parker. “They tried to make stuff happen, and they were very aggressive going to the basket and creating shots and stuff for their teammates. They played pretty well.”
France gets a day’s break before playing New Zealand on Thursday. Gilas will be back in action on Wednesday in a do-or-die game against the same team.
Another loss for the Philippines leads to a 0-2 record and automatic elimination.
Parker says he looks forward to playing even more games at the Mall of Asia Arena with number 5-ranked France, which is expected to make the next round.
“I had a great time. The crowd, they tried to push them to try to beat us and it was just a great game. I had a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to play more games here. It’s been very good since I arrived here 5 days ago. People are very friendly and Philippines is great for basketball.” – Rappler.com