Gilas struggles past Japan
(Second Round - Changsa Social Work College’s Gymnasium)
11:45 a.m. - Smart Gilas vs. Iran
GILAS Pilipinas held its own in the clutch with crucial baskets to post a hard-fought 73-66 victory over tough Japan in Group E action in the second round of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship at the Changsa Social Work College’s Gymnasium in Changsa, China yesterday.
Andray Blatche, despite playing hurt with a calf injury, made huge plays and shots down the stretch to carry the Philippines on his broad shoulders to the all-important victory.
The naturalized star finished with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds to spearhead the Gilas attack.
This was a critical victory for the Philippines as it is now in a second-place tie with Palestine at 2-1 in the group.
Though Blatche played the starring role, he wasn’t alone working down the stretch.
With the game hanging in the balance at 64-all in the waning minutes, Ranidel De Ocampo knocked down a crucial go-ahead triple to give Smart Gilas a 67-64 edge with 2:16 remaining.
In the succeeding possessions, the two countries exchanged points as the Philippines remained on top, 69-66, entering the final minute of action.
Blatche then scored on a putback of his own miss to stretch Gilas’ lead to five, 71-66, with 52.8 ticks left. Jayson Castro then sealed the win and settled the final tally with two free throws with 35.5 seconds remaining.
Today, the Philippines will face the toughest test possible as it takes on unbeaten defending champion Iran (3-0) in a clash of titans at 11:45 a.m. in the same venue.
Obviously, the most interesting match-up in this contest is the tussle between centers and NBA veterans Blatche and Hamed Haddadi.
De Ocampo finished with 13 points, while Castro and Terrence Romeo provided additional firepower of 12 markers each for the Philippines.
Unlike its previous two games, Gilas didn’t exactly have the strong start it aimed for.
The Philippines fell behind by 10, 29-19, halfway through the second period after an 18-5 blast by Japan.
Fortunately, Gilas was able to dig itself out of trouble by countering with its own 16-4 run to end the period to snatch the lead, 35-33, at the half.
Midway through the third, Gilas Pilipinas got a scare as Blatche went down with a calf injury after converting a basket.
He went out for a few minutes before coming back early in the fourth to finish the game strong and power the Philippines to victory.