(Photo from FIBA.com)
Gilas Pilipinas couldn't sustain their good start as the Aussies dominated in the second half
Heading into yesterday's game, Gilas Pilipinas knew that they were up for the impossible task of beating an Australia squad without the top point guard in Asia in Jayson Castro who, according to Coach Chot Reyes tried to practice but was bothered by the pain that is caused by his injury which made the national coach opting to rest Castro alongside Jio Jalalon who is also dealing with his injury.
In what many fans thought was a gamble, Chot Reyes made a last-minute decision to recall Calvin Abueva for the away game in the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in Melbourne, Down Under Australia and even made the gamble to go with a small line-up despite facing a much taller and bigger Aussie team. Unfortunately for our national team, they couldn't hold onto their 5-point lead and faltered the rest of the game as they bowed to the home team, 84-68. The win enabled Australia to keep their unblemished record while Gilas absorbed just its first defeat of the qualifiers but they needed to win their home game against Japan this Sunday if they want to keep their chances of securing a slot in the FIBA World Cup which will take place in China next year.
So what doomed our national team aside from the obvious disadvantage of the size of the Aussies?
Andray Almost a No-Show
In terms of experience in playing in various international competitions, not to mention, having played in the NBA, Andray Blatche has the most number of playing years in the international stage so it's only natural that as our naturalized player, he would be one of the guys whom the young guys on the team will look up to especially with what at stake.
However, the Andray Blatche that everyone was expecting never showed up in Melbourne. Why? As said by one of the commentators, Andray Blatche wasn't really in condition as he struggled all game long, just totaling 8 points on 3 for 11 field goal shooting including 1 for 6 from downtown. He also missed 3 of his 4 attempts from the free throw line but what was visibly missing from Blatche was his defensive intensity. There were multiple occasions in the game when Aussie players were just driving past him for easy baskets. He cannot afford to play that way especially against disciplined squads like Japan. Gilas will suffer if our naturalized player struggles to get his offense going and is equally struggling to play great D.
Gilas Engaged in a Brick-Shooting Contest
There was no denying the fact that our national team was indeed, the underdog in this game but what Gilas did especially in the second half, only deepened the hole that they were already in during the lattter parts of the first half when Australia began to use their massive height advantage to erase Gilas' 5-point lead.
Sure, Gilas was a bit better in terms of field goal shooting percentage at 43% compared to Australia's 41% but the nationals were shooting bricks from almost every angle. The Filipinos went 5 for 19 from the three-point line and were equally horrible from the free throw line as they went 7 for 19. Calvin Abueva, for one, only made 3 of his 10 attempts from the free throw line. Embarrassing, isn't it?
Fajardo Cannot Do it Alone
June Mar Fajardo was the lone bright spot for the Filipinos yesterday as he scored 15 points on a respectable 7 for 11 field goal shooting. He was also the lone Filipino player to score in double figures as the rest of the team were practically missing. Matthew Wright had 9 points on 50% field goal shooting. Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas each had 6 points while RR Pogooy had 7 points. On the other side, Australia got 4 of their players to score in double figures and that's a big difference.
In short, Gilas cannot simply rely on Fajardo or, Blatche or even Castro if he was around to bring home the big W.
First things first, Gilas Pilipinas must make sure that Andray Blatche will be in a better playing condition AND mindset come Sunday's game against Japan. It's imperative that he's in his best shape. Next, the rest of the team needs to review their mistakes from yesterday's game and yes, that includes Chot Reyes. Hopefully, the nationals will perform better against Japan and it's also imperative that they do so.