Does Gilas Pilipinas stand a chance against Australia?
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 22, 2018 08:19 AM
Can Gilas Pilipinas take out Australia?
By Neal Tieng
Gilas Pilipinas taking on a basketball titan is nothing new. Argentina, China, Iran and South Korea are only a few Gilas antagonists that are literally and statistically a league apart from Gilas.
However, fueled by the yells from the stands of “LABAN PILIPINAS!”, Gilas Pilipinas has made the most improbable stands against the world’s best and at times has even emerged victorious beyond analytical probabilities proving after all, “bilog ang bola”.
With a proven battle cry and loads of PUSO, our hardwood flag bearer takes center court in a classic collision course as world no. 31 Gilas Pilipinas goes up against no. 10 Australia who came in from the FIBA Oceania zone to take over the title as kings of Asian basketball last year.
Gilas and the Boomers will clash on Thursday, February 22, at the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne to dispute solo leadership of Group B in the ongoing 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
The Australians will play without their NBA stars and yet they remain as a powerhouse gifted with height, heft and speed—all three critical components in assembling a world contender.
In the last FIBA Asia Cup in 2017, Australia has made it known that this new territory is for theirs to own. Beating former league monarchies such as China, Iran, Lebanon and even fellow FIBA Oceana group mate New Zealand, the Boomers etched their flag clearly as the new basketball king of the region.
In the first window of these Asian Qualifiers, the Boomers continued their domination and were barely challenged by Japan and Chinese Taipei.
In contrast, Gilas Pilipinas struggled in picking up two victories against the same opponents.
BOOMERS CAN SHOOT
The Australians run a near flawless offense. They are disciplined and efficient.
The Boomers are averaging 93 points per game so far and are shooting 54.6 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from deep. Gilas? Only 28.3 percent from deep and 42 percent overall.
To make matters worse, Australia’s top gunner is 6”10 power forward Daniel Kickert, averaging 18.5 points per game so far.
The 34-year-old Australian shot the lights out back in November, draining 75 percent of his total attempts from the field and 77.8 percent from beyond the arc.
This Australian gunner usually playing the 4 is a veteran of many international stints. Kickert’s career shooting touch developed through time logging an impressive 54% from the field and 45.9% from three in the Aussie pro league. Kickert is also automatic at the free throw line netting 95% in the Australian professional league last year.
However, Kickert will not only be Gilas’ only problem. Mitch Creek, ones of Australia’s best scorers, will be a handful. Averaging 11.0 points per game for this tournament, Creek is the National Basketball League (NBL) best shooter with a field goal percentage of almost 64 percent. He led the Boomers in scoring during their title run in the FIBA Asia Cup.
THE GILAS FORMULA
In order to upset Australia on their home floor, Gilas Pilipinas will have to play a perfect game.
And while preparation has been an issue once again, head coach Chot Reyes should be confident of the team that he’s putting up against the mighty Boomers.
Despite not having Jayson Castro, who is supposedly limited by an injury, the Philippines’ backcourt is taken care of courtesy of the K an K tandem featuring Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas. Both youngsters are going to tested against the Boomers though as Ravena has mostly played backup in the senior team while this will be Alas’ first real chance to run the point for the national team.
To have a chance against Australia, June Mar Fajardo also has to continue playing his best Gilas basketball and our shooters have to be on point. Now is really not the time to struggle as a group from the three-point line.
A wildcard in our favor though is Andray Blatche. The naturalized center is in shape, focused, and ready to go. He should have a better game compared to the first window.
To make things rather simple, yes, Gilas Pilipinas has a chance against Australia. But the truth is, the national team will be hard-pressed to walk out of Melbourne with a win.
However, it's not like these circumstances are new to Gilas. Like Chot Reyes always says, "sanay na tayo diyan."