Can Gilas finally wake up against Angola?

Enzo Flojo on Sep 03, 2019 06:05 PM
Can Gilas finally wake up against Angola?
CJ Perez has been one of a few bright spots for an otherwise forgettable first two games for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2019 FIBA World Cup (photo courtesy of FIBA.com)

For the first time at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup here in China, Gilas Pilipinas will be entering a game as the favorites. Despite losing by an average of 52.5 points in our first two games, the national team is still miraculously in contention for an outright berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The squad, however, must secure a win over Angola to solidify its chances at punching those Olympic tickets. 

Take note that our loss to Serbia was our worst loss in terms of point spread. We lost by 47 points twice in the 1978 World Cup at home in Manila (to Soviet Union and Brazil), which was our worst defeat till last night (our 46-point loss to Italy is our third-worst) when we were on the receiving end of a 59-point beatdown. 

The flip-side, hopefully, is that our boys will be angrier and hungrier than ever to prove they belong on the world stage, and they can do that by stamping their class on Angola.

Now let's look at the general positional matchups we can expect for this game.

BIGS

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

Angola: Yanick Moreira, Hermenegildo Mbunga, Reggie Moore, Valdelicio Joaquim

Angola is overall a slightly bigger team with an average height of 6'5" compared to our 6'4", but we do have three guys who are 6'10" or taller (Andray Blatche, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo), while Angola has just two (Yanick Moreira, Valdelicio Joaquim). Having said that, we do need a lot more from our bigs, especially in terms of offensive production. Right now, of our top five scorers, three are guards -- CJ Perez, Paul Lee, and Robert Bolick -- while only 2 are bigs -- Blatche and Fajardo.

Against Angola, both Blatche and Fajardo should really assert themselves inside, while Aguilar should make his presence felt a lot more on the defensive end. Right now, Japeth has ZERO blocks at the World Cup, and that's where his utility should really come to fore. 

One guy to watch, though, is Angola's Moreira, who looks to be produced from the same mold as Kevin Durant. He's listed 6'9", but he's surely taller than that, and the way he moves, his body language are all reminiscent of KD minus the offensive aggressiveness and explosiveness. If he gets off against us, though, he can carry this Angolan team to a win. 

WINGS

Philippines: Gabe Norwood, RR Pogoy, CJ Perez

Angola: Olimpio Cipriano, Leonel Paulo, Jose Antonio, Eduardo Mingas

Defending wingmen has been our most glaring weakness here in China. It pains me to say that because I love Gabe Norwood's game and his dedication to the national cause, but it's clear that something has tapered off in terms of his ability to stay competitive against top-shelf wingmen at this level (same with Pogoy, who has just looked a bit lost, but that could be a by-product of being with the team for such a short amount of time). To say we're missing the shooting of both Matthew Wright and Marcio Lassiter (as well as his defense!) is an understatement. 

Having said that, I've been really impressed with CJ Perez. The former San Sebastian, Ateneo, and Lyceum standout is turning heads here in Foshan with his speed, ability to finish, and just his outright fearlessness. He unexpectedly leads the team in scoring and is second overall in Player Efficiency behind Fajardo.

Leonel Paulo is really the one to watch from Angola, but I'm not even sure if he'll play because of the headbutt he unleashed against Italy last night. If he does play, though, then his physicality will be a challenge for our wingmen.

GUARDS

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

Angola: Gerson Domingos, Jerson Goncalves, Carlos Morais, Jacques Conceicao

The match-ups in the backcourt should be pretty even, though if Mark Barroca misses the Angola game like he did the Serbia game, it'll be tougher on guys like Lee, Ravena, and Bolick to shore up our playmaking. Point guard was such a strong position for us in 2014, what with LA Tenorio and Jimmy Alapag playing big, but right now we haven't had much consistency at this spot, especially on the defensive end. 

For instance, Italy's Daniel Hackett had an easy time against us three nights ago, while Bogdan Bogdanovic, Vasilije Micic, and Stefan Jovic tore our backcourt to shreds last night. If we're to beat Angola, our guards need to really outplay their counterparts.

The challenge will be stopping veteran Carlos Morais, who is playing in his third World Cup. He is Angolas leading scorer and allowing him to run roughshod will spell much trouble for us. 

COACHING

Philippines: Yeng Guiao

Serbia: Will Voigt

Coach Voigt has much love for the Philippines, having been in Manila before and helping our the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the past, but he will be all business against us to close group play. Coach Yeng, I expect, will be on "war mode" as he continues to try proving that his team belongs in this competition. Neither will hold anything back.

OVERALL

We should beat Angola. It's as straight as that. This should be a redemption game for veterans like Blatche, Norwood, and Aguilar, who've really struggled thus far. Fajardo should have his way around the basket, while the energy shown by Perez, Bolick, and Lee should continue to shine through.  

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