By Waylon Galvez
If one is familiar to the strengths and weaknesses of its rival, he or she will certainly have a built-in advantage.
And that’s the reason why Philippine basketball coach Yeng Guiao wants his players to treat Kazakhstan as familiar enemy.
“The objective is to play Kazakhstan like we have played them many times already,” said Guiao. “We need to be familiar with how they play as if it’s not the first time we will play against them.”
The Nationals and the Kazakhs clash in an all-important game at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Since there are only three teams in Group D – their match would be considered as a do-or-die.
That’s because the third team is China which boasts of two NBA players.
Guiao had his second practice session with the national team Tuesday, and he reminded his all-PBA squad of how crucial their matchup is against a dangerous Kazakhstan side.
The last time the Philippines and Kazakhstan clashed was also in an Asian Games competition back in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea – a controversial encounter that saw naturalized Filipino Marcus Douthit deliberately score on their own basket in hopes to send the game to overtime.
At that time, the Philippines must win by 11 points or more to secure a semifinal berth. The national team won, 67-65, but not enough to advance in the next round as Kazakhstan clinched a Final Four ticket.
That Chot Reyes-mentored Gilas Pilipinas eventually finished seventh overall, and Kazakhstan missed out on a podium finish as it placed fourth after a loss to Japan in bronze medal game.
During the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games in Thailand, the all-pro Centennial Team of coach Tim Cone salvaged a bronze medal finish following a 73-68 victory opposite Kazakhstan.
Four years later in the 2002 Busan Asian Games in South Korea, a brokenhearted Philippines squad dropped a 68-66 setback against Kazakhstan in their battle for bronze medal.
The match came a few days after Lee Sang Min delivered a three-point dagger at the buzzer that powered Korea to a 69-68 win over the Philippines in the semifinal round.
The Filipinos will play the Chinese on Aug. 21.
Only the top two teams will advance in the quarterfinal stage.