Breaking Down Gilas vs Kazakhstan
Marco Benitez on Aug 18, 2018 07:02 PM
Philippines' Christopher Tiu dribbles the ball against Kazakhstan during their men's basketball match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)From the get-go, it was obvious that this iteration of Gilas Pilipinas would be a bit different. Coach Yeng Guiao, who could have opted on a more offensively potent starting unit, decided to go with familiarity and defense, starting three players from the Rain or Shine core in Gabe Norwood, Maverick Ahanmisi, and Beau Belga, and inserting JP Erram at center and Stanley Pringle at the point guard spot.
The effect was immediately evident, as the corner triple from Norwood off a Pringle assist in the first play of the game set the tone. The trio of Norwood-Ahanmisi-Pringle showed why they are probably one of the strongest, more athletic, quick, and defensive-minded perimeter trios that Gilas has fielded in recent years. Practically switching everything on the outside, they did not allow Kazakhstan any room to operate, nor to get any rhythm from the field while forcing multiple turnovers, with Ahanmisi getting two steals that led to transition layups early. It was a 12-2 start for the Philippines before Kazakhstan could blink. The only thing going for the opposing team was their offensive rebounding, albeit these only prevented further transition baskets from the Philippines, as the Kazakhs couldn’t convert on the put backs.
One thing Gilas has to adjust to however, is the way the international referees call the game, as their bigs – Almazan and Belga – got into foul trouble early, and penalty situation allowed Kazakhstan to make some headway from the line despite shooting just 1/13 from the field in the first. It was a low scoring first quarter, with Gilas held scoreless for the last 4 minutes and Kazakhstan unable to capitalize on the penalty situation, missing multiple charities. The quarter ended 16-9, Philippines.
The second quarter started with Kazakhstan giving up their 7th turnover, which would be a recurring theme throughout the game thanks to Gilas’ defensive pressure. With 6 steals through the first 15 minutes of the game, Gilas prevented their opponents from getting any rhythm offensively, despite Rustam Yergali coming out more aggressive on the offensive end. James Yap came off the bench and poured in 7 points in the first half, hitting 1 of Gilas’ 6 first half triples. They were 6/19 from deep while holding Kazakhstan, who is known for their outside shooting, to 1/12 at the half.
Defense was once again the key in the 2nd quarter, as Gilas allowed just 11 Kazakhstan points, with themselves scoring 25. They forced 15 turnovers with 11 steals total in the first half, scoring 18 turnover points as a result; while they themselves committed just 5 turnovers, yielding 0 turnover points for the Kazakhs. The only downside was they gave up 18 freethrows to Kazakhstan, who luckily only converted on 11 of them. The half ended with the Philippines holding a commanding 21-pt lead, 41-20. Stanley Pringle was impressive to say the least, running the offense and controlling the pace of the game, living up to the all the accolades thrown his way prior to the Asiad.
Kazakhstan came out of the halftime huddle with a lot more urgency, employing full court pressure all throughout the 3rd quarter, and outscoring Gilas 9-5 in the first 2 1/2 minutes. They also continued to hold the rebounding edge, especially on the offensive glass. While the Philippines continued to pressure defensively, doubling the ballscreens, Kazakhstan was able to adjust, hitting the rolling big man on multiple occasions for easy undergoal baskets. It was here that Fil-German Standhardinger went to work, getting offensive rebounds and scoring on back-to-back baskets midway through the 3rd, despite picking up his fourth personal with still 4 minutes left in the quarter. This turned out to be Kazakhstan’s best quarter, and the only one where the breached the 20-pt mark, outscoring Gilas 23-20.
Whether it was the adrenaline rush with the arrival of Jordan Clarkson in the venue or an earful from Coach Yeng at the end of the third, Gilas started out much better in the fourth, with Pringle once again leading the charge. He hit back-to-back baskets to get to his game high 18pts to start the fourth period; while Almazan – who had multiple skirmishes throughout the game – also hit back-to-back baskets. By the time Paul Lee hit his 3rd consecutive triple midway through the fourth – his only field goals of the game – the game had been blown wide open on a Gilas 20-9 fourth quarter run, 81-52. At that point everyone started getting into the scoring picture while they kept the defensive intensity and held Kazakhstan to just 16 points in the fourth for an emphatic 96-59 opening day win.
It was an impressive start to the tournament for Gilas, despite the absence of Kazakhstan’s best player due to injury, and more so with all that had happened prior to arriving in Indonesia. They now have four days to prepare for a key matchup with powerhouse China. With Clarkson, they get not just another elite athlete on the perimeter, but a legitimate NBA talent in his prime. It will take a lot more than that however, as the game against Kazakhstan showed. There will be no room for error against the huge and athletic Chinese frontline, and their younger guards.
Defensively they’ll have to communicate as well, if not better; and our bigs will have to work extra hard to box out their Chinese counterparts. We can’t give up too many fouls, as the Chinese are tremendously better free throw shooters, and putting our already thin frontline in foul trouble will further limit their ability to implement Coach Yeng’s defensive gameplan.
Offensively, I’m confident we have the talent to compete or even surpass China in the perimeter, and everyone knows Coach Yeng is a master at bringing out the best in his players. If our guards can wreak havoc and break China’s perimeter defense, and we’ll be able to get open looks both inside and out. If our bigs, Belga, Erram, Standhardinger, Almazan, and Taulava can limit China’s 2nd chance opportunities and give us a decent amount of 2nd looks, then we definitely have a shot.
This Gilas squad definitely looks promising. I’m sure glad we decided to send one.