FIBA: Can Gilas bounce back against Serbia?

Enzo Flojo on Sep 02, 2019 06:39 AM
FIBA: Can Gilas bounce back against Serbia?
Can Gilas Pilipinas topple Boban Marjanovic and the rest of Serbia (Photo courtesy of FIBA.com)

Gilas Pilipinas wasn't favored to beat Italy on Day 1 at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but the team was sure as hell not expected to lose by 46 points, 108-62, to the the Squadra Azzurra. The final spread surpassed the 37-point beatdown that the Philippines suffered the last time they played Italy at the World Cup way back in 1978. 

Up next for coach Yeng Guiao and his team is Serbia, which is actually a much bigger (average height is 6'9") and deeper foe than Italy. It will practically be a do-or-die match for the Filipinos, who need to upset the Serbians to keep their hopes alive of advancing to the second round of the World Cup, especially with the Italians expected to notch their second win at the expense of African side Angola. 

Can Gilas Pilipinas bounce back, though? Can they do a 180-degree turn and shoot the lights out against a Serbian side that will be approaching this game with utmost bloodlust?

Now let's look at the general positional matchups we can expect for the Philippines-Serbia fixture.

BIGS

Philippines: Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario, Raymond Almazan, Japeth Aguilar

Serbia: Stefan Bircevic, Nikola Jokic, Boban Marjanovic, Nikola Milutinov, Miroslav Raduljica

- In terms of size, our bigs matched up pretty well against Italy, but against Serbia, our centers and power forwards will be dwarfed by the Eastern European giants. Everyone already expects All-NBA First Team slotman Nikola Jokic to lead the charge for Serbia. The Denver Nuggets frontliner likely won't score a ton, but he will grab his fair share of rebounds and move the ball around very well to help guys like Bircevic, Milutinov, Raduljica and the Goliath-ish Boban Marjanovic get into their sweet spots. 

How can Andray Blatche & Co. compete? Well, they need to shoot well to maybe pull Serbia's bigs outside the paint. That means threes for Dray and Troy, and midrange Js for June Mar and Japeth. It also goes without saying that we also need to hold our own in the rebounding department. If Serbia grabs a lion's share of the rebounds, it's lights out for us early on just like against Italy.


WINGS

Philippines: Gabe Norwood, RR Pogoy, CJ Perez.

Serbia: Marko Guduric, Vladimir Lucic, Nemanja Bjelica, Marko Simonovic.

- Guduric is the only NBA player on this wingman list for Serbia, but he's mighty good. If he gets hot the same way Gigi Datome caught fire against us on Day 1, we're looking at another painful beatdown in Foshan. Gabe and RR need to rediscover their shooting form and stick their rotations on defense. 

I loved Perez's hustle and aggressiveness against Italy. His energy and ability to finish, especially in transition, gave the Philippines a handful of highlights in what was otherwise a, bluntly speaking, embarrassment of a game. It was the national team's worst result on the world stage since taking on the Gilas label, but Perez held his own and played with pride. He'll need to do that again here, though just like last Saturday, he'll sacrifice a lot of size to the Serbians. 

Serbia will still likely rest Bjelica, who is still not 100% due to knee issues, but even without him, our wings are overmatched once more.

GUARDS

Philippines: Paul Lee, Kiefer Ravena, Robert Bolick, Mark Barroca

Serbia: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Stefan Jovic, Vasilije Micic

- I expected our guards to compete much more strongly against Italy, but Daniel Hackett, Marco Belinelli, and Luca Vitali tore our defense to shreds. It won't get any easier against the Serbians, who saw Bogdan Bogdanovic torch the nets against Angola. Of course, he should be a marked man here, but slowing him down is definitely easier said than done. 

I'm hoping our guards can run the offense better. I'm sure they know the system and the plays by heart, but executing against much bigger, more cohesive opponents is extremely crucial, and we saw tremendous breakdown in execution against Italy. Serbia's defense will be just as tight, but if our guards hit their jumpers and commit fewer turnovers, we should have a more respectable showing here. 


COACHING
 

Philippines: Yeng Guiao

Serbia: Sasha Djordjevic

- Coach Yeng is one of the most serious and intimidating local coaches, but even he is less of a scare compared to coach Sasha, who can petrify anyone with his stare and terse responses. 

After beating Angola, coach Sasha basically said that the entire team accepts their tag as title favorites. He's ready to be the textbook movie villain in this tale where Team USA is supposed to lose the World Cup crown, and he won't let any team, much less our own Gilas Pilipinas, put a wrench in that machinery. 


OVERALL

I'll keep it simple. It won't look good. It may even look uglier than our 46-point loss to Italy. This is Serbia we're talking about. They went 11-0 in their tune-up games and defeated a solid Angola by 46 points on Day 1. They are invincible and out to steal the World Cup crown. They will win unless our boys sink anywhere between 15-20 triples and commit fewer than 10 turnovers the entire game. 

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