What about Gilas Pilipinas after exiting the FIBA Asia Cup with just one win in four matches?
Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign at the FIBA Asia Cup 2022 in Jakarta came to a happy end after absorbing a 102-81 thrashing at the hands of Japan on Tuesday night.
In a game they needed to win to stay alive in the tournament, Gilas instead lost by their biggest tournament deficit as they trailed by double digits in the first quarter (which was a familiar refrain for them) and never recovered.
The loss knocked the Philippines out of the FIBA Asia Cup top eight for the first time since 2007, when a PBA-bolstered team – oddly enough also coached by Chot Reyes – finished 9th. It was also the Philippines’ first loss to Japan in the FIBA Asia Cup (and previous incarnations) in 19 years.
“Obviously the result is not what we wanted and once again we are very sorry to have disappointed many of our compatriots,” Reyes said. “As I said, we’ve brought a very young team here and the experience is just going to make them better so they can be exposed to the kind of intensity and level here at the Asian Cup. There’s no not a single player here who has ever been to the Asian Cup.”
With plenty to analyze from Gilas’ premature exit, here are three thoughts on the loss to Japan.
Defense leads to turnovers
Japan’s half-court defense caused all sorts of problems for Gilas’ ball handlers. Two defenders would quickly overtake the ball carrier and force a turnover or disrupt the attack. Gilas had 17 turnovers, which Japan converted to 23 points.
“I think it was a very important match for us,” Japanese coach Tom Hovasse said. We needed a test like this. The Philippines are a very good team and they pushed us. They didn’t give up.”
“Very little to say,” Reyes said. “Japan presented their game plan. Congratulations to them. They forced us to 17 turnovers. That’s the ball game. That big deficit in the first quarter was a big problem.”
Team captain Kiefer Ravena lamented another slow start, which saw Gilas trailing 32-16 after the first quarter.
“Again, this is the second game in a row where the game has been lost in the first quarter. Japan scored on every turnover we had. They had 23 points. It was a big deficit for us .”
Gilas actually had some momentum late in the third quarter and early in the fourth after Ravena scored five straight points to cut Japan’s lead to 12. But that was the closest they would get. The Akatsuki Five played as the most desperate team, putting the game away with a 22-6 run that completely cut the wind from Gilas’ sails. Only a 10-0 run by the bench crowd made the final scoreline look a bit more respectable.
It’s hard for a limited Gilas team like this to win if their top players like Thirdy Ravena and Carl Tamayo are struggling. Ravena shot 1-of-7 and finished with just two points, while Tamayo, who has played at a higher level than his 21-year-old at times in this tournament, was hampered by fouls and played just 16 minutes.
Watanabe leaves with an injury
Yuta Watanabe, the only legitimate NBA player in the game, displayed his pedigree in the 19 minutes he was on the floor. No Gilas defender could stop him one-on-one, and he was a terror to guard in the open court.
Unfortunately, he didn’t finish the game after spraining his ankle following a hard elbow from Will Navarro on a quick play. The Toronto Raptors forward had 15 points and nine boards before going away for good at 7:00 of the third period. Gilas, however, couldn’t capitalize as the Akatsuki Five matched his intensity and countered every run.
The injury was emblematic of the level of physicality in the game, which was not lost on Hovasse.
“Once Yuta Watanabe got injured, I felt like we really came together and played very physical and strong basketball,” he said.
“It’s a shame he got injured. It was a very physical game. I don’t know if that’s how it should all be played, but we responded to the way he was called up, and the The only way to respond to a game like this is to It was a really great win for us, I think we took a step forward today as a team.
“In games like this, I even got quite warmed up. You have to match the intensity of the Philippines. You can’t lose. It just kept getting higher and higher. The players made some great job keeping their emotions in check.”
Watanabe’s availability for Japan’s quarter-final against Australia is questionable according to Hovasse, who added: “We don’t know if he will be able to play. But this is his second sprain in the last month.”
What’s next for Gilas?
Breaking with the usual format of the tournament, teams that finished outside the quarter-finals will no longer play classification matches. That means that’s it for Gilas in Jakarta.
We’ll see them again in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers in August, when they travel to Lebanon to take on the Cedars on August 25 before hosting Saudi Arabia at home on August 29.
The PBA Philippine Cup will be entering its home stretch by the time the August window rolls around, so some PBA players might be available (and judging by these results, the team could definitely use some). Reyes, however, was tight-lipped about it all.
“First of all, (we have to) give these guys rest and time to recover,” he explained.
“We already have a plan for the next window. I cannot disclose it here, but we have already drawn up a plan until August next year. We are already operating under difficult circumstances and many restrictions, but we are to do with what we have.
“At the end of the day, all we can do is take what’s in front of us with what we have and keep going. Hopefully we keep growing.”