“No Iran, easy… easy” That was the words of Lebanon’s coach Vesselin Matic going to their quarterfinal matchup against Gilas Pilipinas. Basketball is not all about physicality it’s also part psychology. It’s having to push the right buttons on how to fire up your team emotionally for the win. Coach Matic had surely fired up team Gilas downing his team on an 82-70 defeat. But there are moments in the game that the Lebanese could have pulled it off. Coach Matic knew their chances against Gilas are very slim. They could not matchup speed and physicality but instead disrupted their rhythm in making the team being too emotional. It was evident when Gilas got sometimes went out of sync making the Lebanon stay within striking distance. Team Gilas were contesting calls, and at times got some missed assignments as Lebanon slowly etching forward. However, firing up an opponent as your weapon of choice is a one trick pony. Basketball players are wired in a certain way to be a professional, meaning those countless hours in the gym, those blood, sweat and tears made them to what they are now. They eat words of discouragements in breakfast, lunch and dinner.
One thing we know is that Gilas wanted to win that match more than anything else. With all those negativity surrounding the team right from the start. When Andray Blatche was overweight, when those marquee players in Gilas 2.0 declined to join, when Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros are too old and when their backs are against the wall. The team moved forward putting all those things behind them.
Coach Matic shouldn’t have said that. But it’s a desperate move for a team struggling throughout the tournament. Gilas won the game as they move 2 games left for a golden ticket towards Brazil.
As Marc Pingris and Calvin Abueva took turns in taunting coach Matic with “Easy, easy” words after their victory. Lebanon learned a simple lesson in humility.
Nothing comes out easy.