Gilas cautious in romp of Myanmar: 'We don't want to discourage them'

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas could have easily blown out Myanmar by more than 69 points, but for the team, that's not really the essence of basketball. 

Coach Tim Cone made it a point for Gilas Pilipinas not to "run up the score" against Myanmar in their 2019 Southeast Asian Games clash, understanding the disparity in size and talent between the two teams.

To put it into perspective, Myanmar is ranked second to last by FIBA at No. 163 and has won only one of its last 13 games in the biennial showpiece.

Its last victory came at the expense of Timor-Leste, a team that has missed back-to-back SEA Games, in the 2015 edition in Singapore.

The Philippines, meanwhile, has not lost in the regional meet for more than two decades, last surrendering a defeat to Malaysia in the 1997 edition, according to chief PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon. 

"We didn't want to run up the score and embarrass anybody. Obviously, there's a big gap in talent between the two teams," Cone told reporters. "The SEA Games are all about competition and friendship."

"You compete through friendship. You try to gain friendships. You're not trying to create enemies in the SEA Games." 

That was probably the reason the Filipinos startedly tentatively against the Burmese, who trailed 24-32 after the maiden quarter and got to within 4 points. 

But Gilas Pilipinas found what Cone said was a "good balance," with Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright conjoining for 8 triples in a furious second-quarter run as they led 77-36 at halftime en route to the 136-67 win

"We were taking it too easy, and in that way, we're not respecting the game either when we take it too easy. So we turned it on a little bit in that 2nd quarter and got going," Cone said. 

"I think in the beginning, they all had the impression they weren't supposed play so hard because they didn't want to run up the score."

"But that was kind of not what we were looking for. They found the balance later on," Cone added. 

Although the 69-point drubbing stands as their biggest in the tournament, Cone clarified it was not their intention to humiliate Myanmar. 

"We want Myanmar to keep coming back and keep wanting to play and keep wanting to improve their basketball program. We don't want to discourage them and no one likes to be embarrassed," Cone said. 

"No one likes to be humiliated, so we just tried to be respectful and try to continue to play the game hard, create good habits going to the next game, and again, not try to run up the score." 

All was in good sport as the two teams posed for a photo midcourt right after the final buzzer sounded.

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.