After pushing the Croatians to the brink in their first game last Saturday, Gilas Pilipinas added another moral victory in their 2014 FIBA World Cup campaign, losing by just 12 points to Greece, 82-70. Just in case you missed it, the world's fifth-ranked national squad decimated 41st-ranked Senegal in their opener, 87-64.
And so it must be said: We are actually hanging around with Basketball's Big Boys. For those who weren't able to keep those peepers open for the Gilas-Greece bout televised live at 2 a.m. earlier, here's a recap of the match dubbed henceforth as "Bonifacio Versus Leonidas":
Video via FIBA
Clearly, our team is playing with a level of energy and excitement apt for someone who hasn't been here in a long, long while—an energy boost which we wish pays off in the next few games.
The next one is another battle against a titan: third-ranked Argentina. The game will be televised tonight at 11:30 p.m. But before that, let's take some time to glean on the good, the not-so-good, and the really, really cool things that came from the Gilas-Greece battle—and for a preview of tonight's game, jump on over to the last page!
The country's fast-rising naturalized son, Andray Blatche, continues his bid to be a national hero with a motivated 21-point, 14-rebound performance, attacking the paint early with a dunk and a layup. In spite of an injury scare in the first game, and a rather blah 6-of-18 hit rate, the former Brooklyn Nets big man's spirited performances have certainly given the team a sense of confidence.
Photo via FIBA
Our squad's platoon of guards, Jayson Castro, Paul Lee, and especially L.A. Tenorio have continued their small but terrible play as they continue their ultra-pesky ways of hounding the opposing ball-handlers. They frustrated Greek guards Nick Calathes and Nikolaos Zisis at times, with tempers boiling at the game's end:
Video via GilasUpdates
On the opposite end of the squad, our big men June Mar Fajardo and Marc Pingris provided a measure of inside consistency as they paced the team with 10 and seven points respectively—the team's highest figures after Blatche's 21. June Mar showed grit and growth as he battled inside against the more seasoned Giannis Bourosis—a 7'1", six-time all-star in his home country. The 2014 PBA MVP also swatted away two consecutive stabs at the rim by 6'6" guard Calathes in one sequence.
Most of all, the experience that June Mar is earning through this competition could prove to be invaluable in the long term.
Photo via FIBA
In spite of the 12-point loss, Gilas hung in there with Greece for much of the game, once again displaying their #puso. We tied Greece's scoring output 17-17 in the second quarter; got outscored by a mere three points in the third, 18-21; and finally outscored them by an inch in the last quarter with a 25-24 differential.
Do these numbers matter in a loss? In our case, they do because it shows that there are certainly things we are doing right, and it's something to draw confidence from. One thing is obvious: We're not going to go out without a fight for the rest of the tourney.
Photo via FIBA
The other important numbers: 41 and 8. Gilas was also right up there in the rebounding department, hauling in 41, compared to Greece's 45. For a team with three legit seven-footers, and an average height of 6'8" (as opposed to our team's 6'3" vertical standard), the miniscule gap in boards shows that we're not lacking in effort. Our team was also the busier one as we forced eight turnovers via steals as opposed to Greece's six.
The Safety Check gets a much-needed upgrade
They're giving us an idea of how the national team will fare at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games