Rediscovering the Road to Rio
No more shockers on this one—The Blur and company made sure of that.
A day after its shocking, embarrassing defeat to lowly Palestine, Gilas Pilipinas bounced back mightily, decimating Hong Kong 101–50 in a game that was pretty much over by halftime.
In a virtual must-win, Gilas Pilipinas started out with guns ablazing, storming out to another emphatic first quarter behind the efforts of naturalized center Andray Blatche, Gilas 2.0 holdovers Ranidel de Ocampo and Jayson Castro, and many-time national team member Dondon Hontiveros. It was a first quarter eerily reminiscent of the Palestine game, but the next three quarters were anything but. Rather than falter, Team Pilipinas continued its stellar play, pouring on the points and locking down the young Hong Kong squad up until the final buzzer.
Gilas Pilipinas looked downright nasty in this game. The offense was flowing in a nice, steady rhythm. The defense was locked in from the very beginning. The mistakes were few and far between. Even the three point bombs were falling. This game was day-and-night different from yesterday’s disaster, and the difference showed up in the final score.
But what does this all mean?
This 51-point annihilation of Hong Kong simply means that the team’s dream is still alive—nothing more, nothing less. It means that the Road to Rio is still open, still there for the taking. It means that Gilas Pilipinas still has a fighting chance to win it all.
It doesn’t mean things are going to get easier.
Team Pilipinas played mighty well all right, and it can be rather easy to get carried away by such a masterful performance, even as it should be pointed out that Gilas manhandled a young, inexperienced Hong Kong squad made up mostly of college players. Despite this dominant win, however, Gilas Pilipinas remains a flawed team—flawed but ultimately very talented.
That talent was on full display against Hong Kong. Jayson Castro was doing Jayson Castro things—zigzagging through the defense for lay-ins and pulling up for booming triples. Dondon Hontiveros had that sugary sweet stroke going from deep. Andray Blatche was flaunting that inside-out game for all to see. Ranidel de Ocampo was his usual silent assassin self, converting in the paint and connecting on the perimeter as he pleased. Calvin Abueva was on beast mode again, flying in for rebounds and going coast-to-coast at every opportunity. Even the others got involved, from Asi Taulava throwing his weight in the paint to Terrence Romeo finally breaking through to Matt Ganuelas-Rosser making contributions on both ends.
The ceiling of Gilas looks very high, indeed, and its potential seems limitless. But as masterful as this performance was, there is still plenty of room for improvement—on both ends. On offense, the team still needs to work on ball and player movement, especially in the half court, against the various zone defenses Gilas will likely face in the future. On defense, the players need to communicate better and more often so they can move as one singular unit, with each player knowing who to help, when to help, and how to help.
The challenges are still aplenty for the Philippines, but by decimating Hong Kong, Gilas Pilipinas have just taken a step in the direction. With its heartbreaking loss to Palestine firmly in the rearview mirror, the team can now move on and focus on getting better for the tougher road ahead.
But for now, it’s on to Kuwait.
Hopefully, no more shockers on this one, too.
Martin is a copy editor for the University Press of First Asia. He is an avid sports fan. He used to keep a sports blog at http://pinoysportsnet.blogspot.com/.