Despite Gilas Pilipinas’ big winning margin, national coach Chot Reyes said the tune-up game against Ivory Coast on Friday night left a lot to be desired.
“There were still some kinks defensively,” Reyes said shortly after the Filipinos’ 85-62 whipping of the Elephants behind the closed doors of PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
“The turnovers [too], because it’s the first time we played complete (with players), right?” he went on. “We have to keep working on (those).”
Gilas committed 18 errors against Ivory Coast, and that should be worrisome considering the caliber of opponents Reyes and his charges will be taking on when the Fiba World Cup rills around starting August 25.
The Philippines will be first playing the Dominican Republic, which will be reinforced by Karl-Anthony Towns on opening night, then against Angola on August 27 before wrapping up its group phase campaign against the World No. 10 Italians, also backstopped by another NBA talent in Simone Fontecchio.
And to get past that kind of opposition, Gilas will need to cut down on turnovers and play a near-perfect defense to keep the games truly competitive.
Gilas Pilipinas’ Friday’s showing, however, should be enough for Angola as far as Ivory Coast head coach Dejan Prokic is concerned.
“They used what they have. They’re quite bigger than us today and they used it a lot, so I think (competing against) Angola should not be a question,” the Slovenian mentor said.
Gilas used its towering frontline to the hilt, with June Mar Fajardo topscoring with 13 points alongside—as expected—naturalized ace Jordan Clarkson. AJ Edu went on to finish with 12 points and seven rebounds while Kai Sotto chipped in 10, showing no ill effects of a back problem that kept him from practicing with the training squad early.
Scottie Thompson was just as sharp and put up 11 points, with his previously fractured hand hardly looking like a concern for the Gilas brain trust with a week left until the tournament.
Gilas pulled away in the third quarter, behind Fajardo’s efforts. The defense also helped the Nationals weld their hands on the driver’s seat as the game plodded along.
“I was very pleased with the defense, especially in the second half. That’s what we worked hard for in Europe in China,” Reyes said.
Up next for Gilas is a tall Montenegro side which will be led by Chicago Bulls big man Nikola Vučević. The two nations play this Sunday night at the same venue.
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