BEIJING -- Gilas Pilipinas is eyeing the lone automatic Olympic berth up for grabs here in the classification stage of the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The highest-ranked Asian team, outside of Japan, at the end of the tournament gets the spot. Gilas has a shot, given that the two remaining games they have are winnable and against teams who are not as good as the ones they played in the group stage.
The Philippines plays Tunisia first on Friday before taking on Iran on Sunday.
Tunisia, though, is no light opponent. They're a two-time FIBA Africa champion and went 10-2 in the World Cup qualifiers. Tunisia pushed Puerto Rico to the limit in the group stage of the tournament.
"The only thing I can reveal is we know [Tunisia has] a short rotation," Gilas coach Yeng Guiao told reporters. "If we force them to work harder, probably that's going to give us an advantage in the endgame. If we are able to force them to work harder, maybe they'll get tired... maybe they'll have problems maintaining their intensity or energy."
But Guiao cautioned that the few guys who play the most minutes for Tunisia are productive and make up the core of the team.
"Even if they have a short rotation, they have a solid five. That's why their coach doesn't have to substitute as much," Guiao explained. "A lot of their players play in the mid-30s in a 40-minute game, they only rest four to five minutes per game."
"That can be an advantage [for us] if we can force them to run with us, work a little harder, and defend us," he added.
Hopefully, Gilas will have more energy and motivation to perform better in the classification stage with the three losses now behind them.
Team captain Gabe Norwood said they're in better spirits than when they lost to Angola, and that everyone is looking forward to another opportunity to make the Philippines proud.
"Right now we're excited to be in Beijing, we're excited to still have a chance [at the Olympic berth]. It's basketball, anything can happen," said Norwood. "[Andray Blatche] said he's had big games in this arena, so hopefully it rolls on all of us [against Tunisia]."