The boys of Gilas 3.0 should thank themselves for being in the best position possible after the elimination rounds of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship. By finishing on top of their group in the prelims, Team Philippines avoided a sudden death match against the powerhouse teams of China, Iran, and South Korea until (hopefully) the championship game.
At the moment, our nationals are in the quarterfinals set to face Team Lebanon, wherein the winner will get to lock horns either with Japan or Qatar in the semis.
Provided no one from the opposing teams would play like LeBron James, Coach Tab Baldwin and his wards, clearly the strongest contingent of their bracket, should make it to the last dance. But we’re talking about basketball—a sport where upsets come as often as an Calvin Abueva “buwis buhay” play. A slight letdown in Gilas’ performance could mean an unexpected exit in the tournament.
To make sure no such tragedy will take place and that Gilas 3.0 will continue to their ass-whooping ways against Lebanon, our hoops idols should focus on these five things...
PACING ANDRAY BLATCHE
‘Dray is our biggest game changer, literally and figuratively. He leads Gilas in four major stat categories: points, rebounds, steals, and blocks. In short, he does a whole lot for the team.
The reason he’s been so effective is because he doesn’t need to go full throttle for 40 minutes. Coach Tab has done a great job managing Blatche’s minutes. As a result, the other players get to chip in during the former NBA mainstay’s time on the bench. As a result, Blatche's legs remain fresh 'til endgame.
Against Lebanon, the trend needs to continue. In taking on the burly Lebanese frontcourt, Blatche can’t afford to run on fumes when the going gets tough. To maximize our naturalized big’s powers, our homegrown talents must step up during the times when ‘Dray’s having a breather.
CRASH THE BOARDS
Gilas is averaging 49 rebounds per contest in this tournament, almost 10 more than Lebanon’s 38.8. We’ve definitely got the better rebounders but the disparity in the offensive rebounding department isn’t wide at all. We’re virtually just a shade higher than their 13.8 offensive rebounds per game average. To diminish the second chance opportunities hauled in by the Lebanese big men and have our distinct rebounding advantage blow up, the rest of Gilas should take inspiration from Abueva’s Dennis Rodman-like efforts.
If Blatche, Marc Pingirs, Ranidel de Ocampo, and The Beast get ample support in ruling the glass, we’ll certainly command a high-speed tempo that will work in our favor and punish the slower Lebanese squad.
Team Philippines is the second-best scoring squad in the tournament, averaging 90.5 buckets per outing (China leads the tourney with 95.7). Thanks to our defense, our team churns out a massive point output despite our roster’s lack of natural shooters.
In the last two games, versus Iran and India, Jayson Castro and his friends have forced a combined total of 38 turnovers and compiled a whopping 27 steals, resulting in two highly impressive wins. Another defense-oriented win will likely end up in a third straight blow-out victory for our nation.
What should Gilas look out for as they play D against Lebanon? Well, they better close out on the three-point area as the Lebanese shooters are nailing a respectable 39.3 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.
SHOOT A LITTLE BETTER
Gilas 3.0 has developed its identity as a high-octane team that relies on scrambling defense to carve out 15-point scoring runs. But we do have our designated outside shooters who could make life a lot easier for our team’s slashers and inside guys.
Currently, we are shooting the three-ball at 36.2 percent. With a little more consistency from Dondon Hontiveros, and a little more decisiveness from JC Intal, those two could bump that number up closer to 40 percent. With Intal and Hontiveros each making a couple more baskets from long distance, Gilas will definitely give Team Lebanon a heartbreak more painful than missing a Saturday edition of Eat Bulaga’s Kalyeserye.
A repeat of this wouldn't hurt too:
PLAYERS TO WATCH
To successfully come out of the quarterfinals unscathed, Gilas must minimize the production of these Lebanese gunners. Or better yet, take them out of their games. We’re counting on you Calvin!
1) SG - Jasmon Jovan Youngblood - #14
- A great athlete
- At 6’ 4”, he’s a tough match-up at the guard spot
- An attacking offensive player
How to stop him
- Let Gabe Norwood cover him like a blanket
- If that doesn’t work, unleash The Beast
2) PF - Mohamad Ali Haidar - #6
- He's 6’ 8”, for starters
- A good shot-blocker
- A formidable rebounder
How to stop him
- Don’t let him be the bully; Asi Taulava and Sonny Thoss must stand up to him
- Blatche must defend him the same way he did Iran's Hamed Haddadi
3) SG – Amir Saoud - #5
- A dangerous three-point shooter
How to stop him
- Don’t let him get in rhythm
- Make him work on defense (Hello, Terrence and Jayson, this one’s on you)
Meanwhile, in the other grouping, Haddadi, China's Yi Jianlian, and Korea’s Donggeun Yang will try to cut each other’s heads off to make it to the gold medal game. But hey, we’ll let them handle their business while we cheer on our bros as they take on Lebanon. That being said, laban Pilipinas! #PusoatUtak!