After getting shellacked for two straight games (against Turkey and Italy), Gilas Pilipinas finally accomplished two things: prune their pool to a final 12 lineup for the Olympic Qualifying tournament and get a win.
Gilas Pilipinas faced a Chinese team lacking their three biggest guns in Yi Jianlian, teen sensation and recent NBA draftee Zhou Qi and Guo Ailun. Still, a win is a win and Gilas can take heart in the fact that China can never take them for granted ever again.
That being said, here are four thoughts from that game:
Gilas can win, even with their main guns having bad games.
Andray Blatche had a double-double (14points, 12 rebounds) but he was a horrible, horrible 4-19 from the field (4-13 from 2pt land, 0-6 from beyond the arc). Jayson Castro was able to get inside the paint numerous times but still seemed to have a mental block against the Chinese big men, as his shots just couldn’t find the bottom of the net (2-7 from the field). Still, the silver lining of their bad games is that other Gilas players stepped up to contribute and help get the win. But make no mistake; Gilas Pilipinas can’t afford to have either Blatche nor play as bad as this against teams like France or New Zealand.
Fajardo may be a Gilas12 shoo in but he hasn’t shown why.
The back-to-back PBA MVP was one of two supposed shoo-ins to the team, the other being Andray Blatche (offhand, I think Jayson Castro was an even more sure shoo-in than Fajardo). But looking at the last three guys, you have to wonder how Fajardo is contributing to the team. He hasn’t been rebounding all that well, nor has he been scoring as an interior complement to Blatche. Truth be told, FIBA World Cup Fajardo was much more effective than two-time-PBA-MVP Fajardo. We can only hope that he shows his true worth in the OQT.
Jeff Chan and Terence Romeo just showed why they’re in the Gilas12.
With Blatche and Castro having bad games, Gilas needed someone else to step up. Good thing the Negros Sniper, Jeff Chan, and the Ankle Breaker, Terence Romeo were more than up to the task. Chan was perfect from the field (4-4, 2-2 from 3pt land) to finish with 10 points while Romeo was 6-10 (3-4 from three) to finish with 18. But what made their presence even more important was that China was unable to exploit either on defense. Several times, the Chinese three the ball to the man Chan or Romeo was guarding and the duo were able to force a long shot or a bad shot almost every time.
The system works…when they use it.
You can actually see when the Gilas players lose discipline and revert to their one-on-one skills. When Castro, Romeo, Blatche or Norwood was able to facilitate the offense, you could practically see the system purring, more often than not resulting in a bucket. But when the Chinese are able to force them to stop passing and start pounding the rock while looking for a teammate, everyone just stops and watches the guy with the ball do his thing. Too often, this resulted in Blatche taking a hurried shot (hence his bad shooting percentage).
What we should take away from this:
Hope. While time is no longer our friend, we have progressed far enough for me to say that defeating France and New Zealand won’t be as big a shock as it would have been 2 years ago. In fact, with this team now, I’d say we’d be able to beat last year’s Chinese team. But the past is the past and we can only look to the future. If we can get past France in our bracket, then I think we stand a good chance of giving Canada (my bet from the other side of the bracket) a run for their money for the lone Rio ticket.
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