by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7:30 p.m. – Philippines vs Taiwan
Gilas Pilipinas seeks for more consistency even as it expects visiting Taiwan to be more competitive as the first window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers wraps up tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Three days after their 77-71 victory over Japan in Tokyo, the Filipino cagers are eager to give their home fans an impressive showing against their Taiwanese counterparts in their match set at 7:30 p.m.
Gilas’ performance against Japan left plenty to be desired after squandering a 14-point first half lead, turning the ball over 15 times while conceding 13 offensive rebounds. It took some timely baskets from Jayson Castro and an inconsistent Andray Blatche to spoil Japan’s home match.
Coach Chot Reyes has yet to reveal his roster for the Taiwan tussle at press time as Gilas has an option to change its composition from the 16-member pool. But his main weapons such as Castro, Blatche, Calvin Abueva, June Mar Fajardo and Matthew Wright will all be around.
Reyes may activate either Carl Bryan Cruz, Mac Belo and Raymond Almazan if Gilas opts to add some height advantage after Gilas went with perimeter shooting against the Japanese.
The Filipinos battle a Taiwanese team aching to bounce back from being clobbered 104-66 by Australia also held Friday in Taipei.
Taiwan never got things going as it allowed the FIBA Asia Cup champion Australians to seize the momentum on the way to the massive rout.
Reyes and his coaching staff could center their gameplan on the way Taiwan was outrebounded, 37-27, and turning the ball over 21 times.
Gilas’ defense had a tale of two halves against Japan as the latter shot 27 percent from the field, only to lose consistency when the home side slowly got its rhythm and even took the lead three times in the second half.
Blatche had his moments of struggle on the defensive end despite finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks while going 4-of-11 from the field. That is something he and Gilas hope would be fixed by the time they troop to the Big Dome floor.
Naturalized player Quincy Davis and veterans Wen-Tseng Tsai and Po-Chen Chou lead Taiwan’s bid to spoil Gilas’ first home match of the qualifiers.