With Gilas Pilipinas' shocker of a loss earlier today against Palestine in the first day of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, this is the million-peso question every local hoops fan is asking right now: ANYARE???
We were supposed to win that match. We were supposed to take a proverbial walk in a cotton candy-filled park. We were not supposed o be beaten, not by a Palestinian side unranked by FIBA. Not by a squad that is a first-timer in the tournament.
But the basketball gods played a cruel trick on us, and the victory we were supposed to use as a motivational tool to survive another hump day suddenly disappeared as fast as our three-point shooting in the game.
We were beaten, 75-73. Sad, sad day.
It's easy to say "Get over it," but this one stings harder than an enraged jowa's right hand. To be fair to the Palestinians, they did a helluva job acting as the metaphorical cold water that doused our lofty expectations, at least for the first round of the competition.
Yes, our boys will get over it, but legit wisdom dictates that our national team must first learn from this defeat, and remedy ASAP these unfortunate factors that we think were to blame in this monumental upset.
THE HOT POTATO
We could've sworn Gilas was playing with a burning-hot potato instead of a FIBA-sanctioned ball the way they turned over the rock in the game. Asi Taulava and co. committed 15 TOs in the match and while that doesn't seem big, don't forget that the games here are only 40 minutes long (excluding overtime). In fact, all Gilas players save for Jayson William (Castro) committed at least one turnover. Dafuq, right?
Gilas Pilipinas made seven out of 30 from beyond the arc for a measly 23.3-percent conversion rate. With snipers like Dondon Hontiveros (1/6), Terrence Romeo (3/8), William (0/2), and Ranidel de Ocampo (0/3) in the fold, we were expecting at least a 30-percent clip from rainbow territory. What's more frustrating is the fact that they just couldn't get in the groove from the outside, especially in the latter part of the game. Parang minamadali, you could say. For a team that takes pride in its speed and respectable outside shooting, this is definitely bad news.
For a team whose tallest player stands 6'8", Palestine did a fantastic job off the boards. In fact, the Middle Eastern team grabbed more rebounds (58-53) than a Gilas side headlined by 6'11" Andray Blatche and 6'9" Taulava. This is one of the few games where we have height advantage inside, but we still weren't able to capitalize on the rebounding department. Palestine seemed to want the ball more, especially on the offensive end, grabbing more offensive rebounds (23-17). There were multiple head-scratching plays where Gilas big were outhustled and outmaneuvered by their less-fancied counterparts.
It's pretty obvious that the Gilas coaching staff weren't able to scout Palestine really well. We couldn't blame them—here is a team which is a virtual unknown in the FIBA Asia joust. The result: visible confusion on both ends of the floor for our players. The Palestinians are the so-called mystery men of the tournament; we knew little about them or their brand of play. Now we know they can ball, and shouldn't be underestimated.
THAT SHAMALA GUY
Lads, remember Palestine's No. 6 guy, Jamal Abu Shamala—the dude can flat-out score. He torched our side with import-like numbers of 26 points and 15 rebounds. Our "Shamala who?" responses quickly gave way to "P#$@!^& mo, Shamala!" with the way the 6'5" forward ran rings around the likes of RDO and Gabe Norwood.
We were impressed enough by his skills that we did a bit of research on him: Shamala is actually a 28-year-old Palestinian-American baller who once played for the University of Minnesota (where he earned Outstanding Student-Athlete Award in 2009) in the US NCAA and the NBA D-League for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He also played in Mexico as an import. Yep, he's definitely no pushover.
If only Marc Pingris didn't acquire fouls the way Starcraft players acquire gold, then we might've had the defensive presence to at least slow Shamala down.
Gilas Pilipinas erected several double-digit leads of up to 16 in the game, only to see them all disappear in the face of a blistering Palestinian rally. When Palestine was slowly but surely chipping away at our lead, we played not to lose rather than FTW. And when the scores became too close for comfort, our boys became tentative, seemingly confused about what to do with the ball. Then, as bad luck would have it, our offense left us in the fourth quarter (Palestine outscored Gilas 20-14 in the final canto), injecting more doubts which were never there before the game.
We're pretty sure Gilas Pilipinas will learn from this loss. As they say, it's better to lose now rather than in the important stages.
And, besides, we still have a chance to make it to the next round (only one team per group will be eliminated). But then again, we shouldn't think that way. If this game thought us anything, it's not to take any opponent lightly.
For all we know, Kuwait and Hong Kong might also play the party-pooper role.