By halftime, all the telltale signs were there. The stagnant offense, the confused defense, the silly mistakes, and the lackluster effort. All bode ill for Gilas and it was a prophecy that would soon come to fruition.
In the first quarter, the enigma that was Palestine drew first blood, holding a tenuous lead until the halfway mark of the quarter, when Gilas tied the score at 7. Andray Blatche and the just-inserted Terence Romeo then took the Palestinean defense apart, scoring in a variety of ways both inside and outside. The quarter ended with the Philippines leading 27-12.
In the second quarter, Palestine showed just how fast they can adjust as a team, as well as how well disciplined they were. Realizing that the Philippines was a more dynamic offensive team with Romeo playing, they went at him on defense, forcing him out of the game in favor of the more systematic-on-offense-and-more-solid-on-defense Jayson Castro. They then went after Andray Blatche, who picked up two quick fouls and had to sit down too. Palestine then took advantage of the suddenly toothless Gilas and whittled down the lead to a mere 5 points, 45-40.
In the third quarter, Gilas seemed to have found their footing, with Blatche and Castro combining to score 7 straight points. And then the Palestineans ditched the man-to-man defense they had been employing in the first half and went with a zone defense, practically daring the Gilas shooters to take their shots from three point range. They had also figured out that they could overwhelm the Gilas frontline by crashing the boards and came away with several second chance points and keep the Filipinos within striking distance, 59-55.
In the fourth quarter, Gilas started out aggressively again, getting the lead back up to 9 with half the quarter gone. But Palestine refused to fold, going on a 10-0 run before Tab Baldwin finally called timeout. A look at the faces of the players told the entire story of the game: the huge smiles of the Palestineans saying they’ve already won, even if they lose and the desperate uncertainty in the eyes of the Filipino players saying they didn’t know if they could win or even deserve to win tonight.
With a minute left in the game, Palestine finally took the lead again. Andray Blatche answered with a lay up. Plestine countered with a good drive and drop off for an and-1, going ahead by two. Castro dribbles away the time before Blatche gets blocked at the three-point line with barely a second left. Palestine taps the ball out in the out-of-bounds play and seals what is probably the biggest upset in FIBA Asia Championship history.
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