After a slow start, Gilas Pilipinas took care of business Friday night against Indonesia, 76-51, to stay unbeaten in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Angeles City. The team wraps up their schedule with a second game against Korea on Sunday afternoon. ESPN5.com's Chuck Araneta discusses his three takeaways from the Gilas-Indonesia game.
1. Perimeter scoring could be an issue for Gilas
In two games, Gilas Pilipinas is shooting 13-42 from downtown, for a 30.9% clip. Normally, that statistic in the international game should lead to a disastrous performance. But Gilas Pilipinas has been able to mitigate their struggles from outside by being more efficient in the paint. In a slugfest of a match against Indonesia, the Philippines kept attacking the paint, where a weary or uninterested looking player in Lester Prosper hardly offered any resistance. Once the Philippines sensed this in the second half, it was all over.
This strategy will work against a weaker team like Indonesia, but no way will they get the same results on a regular basis against the Koreans, Chinese or Iranians. In a strange way, the best shooters of Gilas are coming from the bigs, as Ange Kouame and Carl Tamayo have been the most consistent outside scorers for Gilas. But with Tamayo most likely out for their rematch against Korea, Gilas could find themselves at a disadvantage if their shooting doesn't perk up.
2. Lopez is a great example of long-term development done right
It's easy to fall in love with the game of a player like LeBron Lopez. At only 18 years old, he's a big bundle of energy and raw athleticism, like an excitable puppy eager to burst out of his cage and wreak havoc.
Coach Tab Baldwin is not having any of that. What makes Baldwin such an effective mentor is that he finds players who despite their natural gifts are still willing to mold their game for the good of the team. That's what Lopez showed in the Philippines' win against Indonesia. Despite not playing against Korea, nor in the first half versus Indonesia, Lopez still played within himself, refusing to bust through the system and his role to get his own.
And that's rare for such a young player. But as long as Lopez buys in, it's only good things to be such a team-first player at a young age. The athleticism and energy of Lopez can only take him so far, but it's learning the other things that will make him a better player, according to Baldwin.
"I think we have a tendency sometimes here to get carried away with the spectacular on the basketball floor and the only thing on our program that we want to be spectacular is the results and the performances," said the Gilas mentor. "With the way LeBron is buying in, we may sacrifice some of the highlights but I think, eventually, long term we'll have a tremendous basketball player on our hands. And I think that's what we all want, really at the end of the day."
3. Now it's personal
The Philippines got what it wanted- a win against Korea, and a berth in the FIBA Asia tourney. For all intents and purposes, this should be a wrap. Sunday's game, whether resulting in a win or loss doesn't matter, and shouldn't matter. The goal of Gilas should be simply to gain valuable experience, and hopefully no injuries.
it should be that way, but it won't. That's because Korea's head coach spoke his truth about SJ Belangel's gamewinner.
"There is no space for taking a shot, Cho Sang Hyun said. "It was a lucky shot. There was nothing we can do to fix it."
Well, that lit a fire under the Gilas mentor. Coach Tab didn't hold back in his comments as well: "We would make sure that that is highlighted and I'm sure that will give our players a little bit of an extra incentive," Baldwin said.
Those definitely don't sound like the words of a team that is just going to pack it in and chill on a Sunday afternoon. The Philippines has one last opportunity to make each Filipino swell with pride once again. And with this new development, business has picked up even further for the next showdown in this Asian basketball rivalry.
"I don't expect that we will be going out there to make friends on Sunday," Baldwin said.
Brace yourself for an all-out war.