Yes, we lost. Yes, we were expected to win. Yes, it’s a historic upset. But none of those things matter now. What matters is that Gilas learns from this game and uses those lessons to get better (hopefully, in time for tomorrow’s game).
That being said, here are three things that contributed to our loss to Palestine.
Palestine, despite having a 6’8” center, outrebounded the Philippines 58-53. What’s worse is that Palestine totally owned Gilas on the offensive boards, with a 23-17 advantage. Those come out to 12 potential second-chance points. In a two point loss, denying them 2 of those offensive rebounds could have won us the game.
The Gilas big men actually rebounded well, led by Blatche with 12, Abueva collaring 8, Thoss with 6, and de Ocampo with 5. But it’s the box-out system that seems to be broken, with Palestine’s Rebound Brothers, the Sakakinis, getting 6 offensive rebounds each. Their big O-reb numbers were aided by our defensive scheme, something I will get into in the next paragraph.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Tab Baldwin is a great coach. But in today’s match, he was nowhere near to being a good coach. Palestine came out like a house on fire, swinging hard to try to get Gilas off-balance. Gilas teetered, but regained balance by the end of the first quarter.
By the start of the second quarter, Palestine had pieced together an action plan on how to take down Gilas. First, they went after Terence Romeo on defense. By overpowering Romeo on the defensive side, they forced Baldwin to pull him out and put in Jayson Castro, the stronger, better defender. This is right after Romeo scored 5 quick points, helping Gilas erect a 15point first quarter lead.
After Romeo sat, Palestine’s big men went hard at Blatche. They got Blatche to foul twice in the span of one minute, and again, Baldwin had to pull him out. Gilas thus had to play almost the entire second quarter without two of their most dynamic offensive players.
By the third quarter, Palestine had figured out Gilas’ two fatal weaknesses: their lack of reliable shooters and their lack of discipline on defense. To exploit Gilas’ lack of reliable shooters, Palestine switched from a man-to-man coverage to a zone, daring the Filipinos to shoot from distance. They did…to the tune of 7-30 (23.3%). After that, it was just a matter of time before the Palestineans clogged the lane and kept our slashers and rebounders out of the shaded area.
On offense, seeing that the Filipinos were employing a “switch on all” defensive system that didn’t run very smoothly, the Palestineans countered by sending cutters and pickers on every play, targeting the likes of Castro, Romeo and Hontiveros for mismatches. Each of these guards were victimized by switching mismatches, the most costly of which was the last Palestinean play, when Hontiveros had to foul the hulking Sakakini, who made the and-one play that gave Palestine the win.
I have mentioned in previous articles about the need for game tapes. This game has underscored this need even more. With the advent of the digital age, the excuse “we have no scouting tapes” just doesn’t cut it. Even the star-studded 2006 US basketball team fell prey to this excuse, losing to a Greek team that had no NBA players in their roster because the US players didn’t even know who was on the other team. And that was a team with Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade on it.
Another thing we have to remember is that this isn’t a problem other teams have with Gilas. There are tons of online videos about Gilas 3.0. And you can bet your butts that every team in the tournament has watched those and broken down which Gilas player can do what. If this is what Palestine can do to us with prior info on what we can do, just imagine what China, South Korea and Iran will do with that information.
We must therefore go into the games prepared with countermeasures for what will surely be our opponents’ tactics to exploit our weaknesses. Having no answer to a hard zone or a dynamic motion offense is unacceptable.
This is hardest pill to swallow. There were almost a dozen “50-50” balls in the game and Palestine won all but two. This, again, is unacceptable for a team with the #puso calling card. Palestine is one of those teams to whom we do not give up too much height, heft or speed. If we can’t beat them to loose balls, how will we fare against speedier teams like South Korea and Chinese-Taipei or bigger, heftier teams like China and Iran?
Another observation for me that is hard to swallow is that the boys seemed shell-shocked by the end of the fourth quarter. No one wanted the ball, not even Andray Blatche, who memorably handed the ball off to Asi Taulava with the clock winding down. This led to a fastbreak basket for Palestine, which undermined our confidence even more. This is the type of situation that Jimmy Alapag lives for and we certainly missed him today.
That being said, tomorrow is another day. It’s another chance to show Asia what Gilas is actually made of and to exhibit the Gilas #puso.
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