At first glance, it’s extremely difficult to find any sort of silver lining in Gilas Pilipinas’ 77-73 loss at the hands of Puerto Rico. The fourth straight L has kept us winless in the FIBA World Cup, in what was probably the most heartbreaking defeat we've endured. With both nations’ tournament lives at stake, it was the Puerto Ricans who survived, as they overcame an early double-digit deficit and finished off the feisty Filipinos’ campaign. #HayopKaBarea
Feeding the masochist in us, here's the highlight reel:
Video via FIBA
But if you would just take a couple, maybe three, maybe five or a dozen deep breaths, you’d be able to see the bigger picture. Against the Boricuas, we, again, competed and played basketball at the highest level. Unmistakably, there were stretches in the game wherein it clearly looked like we were way better than FIBA’s 17th world ranked country. In the first quarter, it felt like we were Team USA and Puerto Rico was...well, Puerto Rico. An emphatic slam by Blatche punctuated our fast start:
Plus, regardless of the result, our #PUSO-filled brand of hoops continued to earn the respect of sports aficionados from around the globe. Even FIBA’s international commentators have become avid Gilas fans, causing them to sound like Quinito Henson a couple of biased local sportscasters at times.
A couple more things that need to be applauded are the fantastic performances of two Gilas players who showed up against Puerto Rico. They proved that Gilas’ solid showing in the past three games was no fluke. Instead, they reiterated that the Philippines is on the verge of becoming a fixture in international basketball.
The Blatche Parade
A big part of the reason why we were able to keep the game tight was Blatche, who has seemingly embraced the Pinoy brand of basketball. In Gilas’ fourth and most crucial game of the tourney, we saw how Blatche tried to come up big. Dray scored 25 points and grabbed 14 boards, along with several crashes to the floor after driving hard to the basket.
Image via FIBA.com
With a bum knee and all, it was obvious in the way Dray went after every rebound and the rest of his on-court demeanor that he was passionate about giving Philippines its first win. Yes, he had a couple of miscues during crunch time but he had also made a huge three-pointer late in the game that gave Gilas its biggest chance to win.
Yes, he committed turnovers but he more than made up for it with his massive contribution on the offensive end and his wide coverage on D. And also, his shortcomings as Team Philippines’ ace player may be attributed to the limited amount of practice time he had with his new teammates. Nevertheless, Dray has already proven that putting him in the Gilas roster is a good move.
L.A. Tenorio Stars In Breakout Performance
Tenorio controlled the pace in the first quarter, our best 12 minutes in the whole tournament. He poured in 13 points in the first half, which included a jumper over the seven-foot Ricky Sanchez and a couple of crafty baskets against NBA veteran J.J. Barea.
The game might have been lost, but we implore you to keep your head up, idol.
Image via FIBA.com
The former Ateneo Blue Eagle’s fiery start had given his team a much-needed cushion that allowed the Philippines to keep Puerto Rico at bay in spite of the latter's furious surge at the end of the quarter. It was L.A.’s time to shine in the tourney just as Capt. Jimmy and Jeff Chan had the spotlight on them in the games against Argentina and Croatia, respectively.