Tale of the Tape: Philippines MUST beat Kazakhstan tonight

Enzo Flojo on Feb 24, 2019 01:31 PM
Tale of the Tape: Philippines MUST beat Kazakhstan tonight
Can Gilas Pilipinas avenge their loss against Kazakhstan last year?

There is no tomorrow for Team Pilipinas if they botch the job a second time against dangerous Kazakhstan tonight. Our national team's shocking loss to the Kazakhs last November remains a stinging reminder that in this game anything can happen, but tonight our boys need to stay true to form as they fight for a spot in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Quite literally, it will be win or go home for Team Pilipinas.

Here is a rundown of the different scenarios for a successful Team Pilipinas qualification to the World Cup:

1. If the Philippines beats Kazakhstan, and Japan loses to Qatar, we qualify.

2. If the Philippines beats Kazakhstan, Jordan loses to New Zealand, and Lebanon loses to Korea, we qualify.

3. If the Philippines beats Kazakhstan, Jordan beats New Zealand, and Lebanon loses to Korea, we qualify.

4. If the Philippines beats Kazakhstan, Jordan loses New Zealand, and Lebanon beats Korea, we qualify.

That's it. In any other scenario, we will fail to qualify. In short, we cannot afford to lose to Kazakhstan. A loss means outright elimination. The bottomline is that we must beat Kazakhstan and need one team from among Japan, Jordan and Lebanon to lose as well.

Remember that if we beat Kazakhstan but Japan, Jordan, and Lebanon all win their final games, we will still not qualify.

So in this final Asian Qualifiers match where our guys are looking at payback and World Cup qualification, let's see how our boys measure up against the Steppen Wolves of Kazakhstan.

Frontline: Advantage Philippines

Kazahkstan's frontcourt obliterated ours in November. We didn't have the mobility to stretch and properly cover their sweet-shooting bigs. Alex Zhigulin, in particular, torched us with 6 triples. We also got outrebounded, 37-35. This time around, we have prized center Andray Blatche back in the fold to serve as the cornerstone of our frontline. Along with Japeth Aguilar, JP Erram, Troy Rosario, and June Mar Fajardo, coach Yeng Guiao has a much more mobile and versatile frontcourt as answer to Kazakhstan's agile bigs. The question now is does Kazakhstan have anyone who can contain Blatche?

Wings: Advantage Philippines

Our wingmen are coming off one of their best shooting outings in their lopsided win over Qatar. Marcio Lassiter and Paul Lee were utterly splendid, combining for 7 threes, while Gabe Norwood was a defensive maven, limiting Khalid Suliman Abdi to just 5 points. We will need them to be sharp once again here, with Kazakhstan likely relying on Nikolay Bazhin and converting Rustam Murzagaliev from a playmaker to a wing shooter. Our wingmen surely have more talent, but it'll take more than that to seriously hamper Kazakhstan's own wing scorers. If our boys light it up from deep anew, though, that could spell the biggest difference.

Backcourt: Advantage Kazakhstan

We have a couple of the finest PBA floor generals in Jayson Castro and Mark Barroca on our side, but even they may find the going extra challenging against new Kazakhstan naturalized player Anthony Clemmons. The 6'2” Clemmons is a veteran of the Kazakh basketball scene, and he just dropped 31 points on Australia. He can definitely score, and he's as dangerous as they come. If he explodes for 30+ points again, that could pose a serious problem for Team Pilipinas. Castro and Barroca, more than scoring or even playmaking, have to make sure Clemmons won't get into a game-long rhythm. Heck, coach Yeng may even choose to go with a mismatch and put Gabe on Clemmons - anything to slow him down. Kazakhstan have another explosive guard, though, in seasoned player Rustam Yergali, who had 10 points in our loss to Kazakhstan last November. We cannot take him for granted, too.

Overall, our Team Pilipinas, despite playing on the road in unfamiliar conditions and even after receiving a rude welcome upon their arrival, remains a clear favorite to win. If Blatche & Co. just play to their capabilities and don't get flustered by external factors, they should be fine. Barring an Anthony Clemmons scoring flurry, the Filipinos may even break this game open sooner rather than later.


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