A wounded tiger is a dangerous beast. And that has been what Gilas Pilipinas became after suffering a huge upset to an unranked Palestine team on their first game in Fiba Asia. It was still fortunate that it happened earlier in the tournament or it could have spell disaster if it was in the second round. Gilas won five straight wins including a huge victory against the powerhouse Iran team, topping their group as they head to the quarterfinals.
As lady luck continued to smile, Gilas will not face Iran, China and Korea in the quarterfinals
Which makes it an easy route going to the finals. But there is basically no easy way to the golden ticket to Rio (the World championships would be held in Rio Brazil). Lebanon, Japan and Qatar are all capable of handling an upset. But let us evaluate the first task at hand and that is Lebanon.
Fadi El Khatib and Joe Vogel gave team Philippines a problem before but both are not part of team Lebanon today. El Khatib was in the lineup going to the tournament but pulled out in the last minute. They say Fadi has a huge contract in China and had to back out fearing he would get injured. His replacement is Ahmad Ibrahim is a good player but got injured in their second game on a double overtime defeat against Qatar.
Naturalized player Jay Youngblood has carried this team all the way to the quarterfinals averaging 19 points per game. This team has an average age of 26 years old which is still young with Wael Arakji as the youngest of the bunch at 21. Lebanon’s strength is their shooting led by Shooting guard Amir Saoud with a 48% accuracy from the three point line. The game against Jordan was a big revelation as head coach Vesselin Matic who is a former head coach of Iran that stirred them to the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship, gave his team the green light from beyond the arc. Escaping a win after Jordan made a big push heading to the last quarter.
What would Gilas Do to win
To borrow Sun Tzu’s art of war quote “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” Lebanon’s Achilles heel is their guards, their starting guard is 21 years old and with some of their players not accustomed to international basketball they average to about 13.7 turnovers a game. In contrast our guards is one of our strengths. Jayson Castro who is 8 years older than Arakji can spell the difference. What Gilas should be wary about is Jay Youngblood and Amir Saoud. In breaking a zone, the shooters need to click to break the defense and those guys can surely do that. Coach Tab Baldwin could use Ganuelas-Rosser and Gabe Norwood to disrupt the offense. Lebanon doesn’t have a legitimate 7-footer so Andray Blatche could exploit that more. And as a team Lebanon doesn’t rebound the ball really well so Calvin Abueva and the rest of the big men can grab those offensive rebounds in our end.
Defense that would be the key to winning against Lebanon. Lebanon is averaging 84.3 points per game, fourth in the tournament. So if we could lower their point average and play superb defense like what they have done against Iran, Gilas won’t have a problem winning this game.
In the end, it’s who wants it most wins this game. How much do the Gilas Pilipinas want this? How do they stay wounded?
Will see tomorrow.