FIBA: Can Gilas finally earn that elusive win against Iran?

Enzo Flojo on Sep 07, 2019 07:09 PM
FIBA: Can Gilas finally earn that elusive win against Iran?
Can CJ Perez help lead Gilas Pilipinas to a win in the 2019 FIBA World Cup? (photo courtesy of FIBA.com)

Gilas Pilipinas's forgettable campaign at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China comes to a close on Sunday when they face a familiar foe in Iran at the Cadillac Center in Beijing. The Iranians are fresh off beating Angola, 71-62, and will be favored against our visibly struggling national quintet. 

Objectively, we should have a decent chance of beating Iran, since we've been playing them on a regular basis in the Asian basketball circuit, but a look at our most recent match-ups with them will reveal that this is a team that has beaten us at almost every turn. 

In our last five meetings with Iran in major senior level Asian tournaments (FIBA Asia tournaments and the Asian Games), Gilas has won just once, and that was four years ago in the 2015 FIBA Asia Cup when Tab Baldwin was still coaching the team. 

We lost to Iran, 76-55, in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, lost to them, 68-63, in the 2014 Asian Games, and lost to them twice in the World Cup Qualifiers, 81-73 in Tehran and 78-70 in Manila. 

Iran are probably feeling comfortable with their encounter against us, fully confident they can end their World Cup mission on a winning note. Can we upset them, or will they keep our boys winless and return home empty-handed?

Now let's look at the general positional matchups we can expect against Iran.

BIGS

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

Iran: Hamed Haddadi, Michael Rostampour, Meisam Mirzaei, Mohammad Hassanzadeh, Arman Zangeneh, Aaron Geramipoor

If we failed to contain Tunisia's Salah Mejri, it stands to reason we'll have a tough time containing Iran's Hamed Haddadi as well. His size has always given our frontline problems, and his supporting cast is nothing to scoff at either. Meisam Mirzae (who hasn't played yet in the World Cup) had his way with us in the Asian Qualifiers, while Aaron Geramipoor and Michael Rostampour have been playing solid.

As always, Andray Blatche will be the barometer of our frontline's effectiveness. If he has a bad game, our chances go up in smoke, but if he can find a way to contribute in several departments (e.g. scoring, rebounding, playmaking), then he'll make life difficult for Iran. 

I also want to see June Mar Fajardo put up good numbers here. He was solid in our first two games, but he was a non-factor against Angola and barely got touches against Tunisia. At 29 years old and in his prime, Fajardo should have made a bigger impact for this team, but that just hasn't been the case.

WINGS

Philippines: Gabe Norwood, RR Pogoy, CJ Perez

Iran: Mohammad Jamshidi, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Behnam Yakhchali

This has really been our weak spot at the World Cup, and our wingmen will be challenged again as Iran has a trio of perimeter players who can shoot the lights out and bury our team early and often. 

Veteran Samad Nikkhah Bahrami and heir apparent Behnam Yakhchali are among the team's top scorers, while former PBA import Mohammad Jamshidi is as explosive as they come. This is a team that shoots 41% from beyond the arc, and that doesn't bold well for us, since we have been terrible at defending the three. 

Needless to say, Gabe, RR, and CJ have their work cut out for them, and here's to hoping they finish the tournament strong and stop Iran's wingmen from running roughshod. 

GUARDS

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

Iran: Sajjad Mashayekhi, Rasoul Mozafari, Hamed Hosseinzadeh

Our guard play has been much maligned this past week, and though they've really struggled, they've also had some moments of brilliance. I don't want to begrudge their efforts, but if we're being completely objective, they've really had a lot of trouble matching up with other teams' bigger and stronger guards. 

Iran's guards should be better match-ups for us, though that doesn't mean things will be easy. Far from it. Still, this is a great opportunity for our boys to perhaps regain their composure and their production. If our guards can force a good number of turnovers and limit the ball movement of Iran's guards, we may have a chance to win.

COACHING

Philippines: Yeng Guiao

Iran: Mehran Shahintab

Coach Yeng was hailed as a hero for salvaging Gilas in the 2018 Asian Games and in the Asian Qualifiers, but right now he's been under a lot of scrutiny for the debacle in China. He has bravely chosen to take the brunt of whatever criticisms are hurled at the team, but deep inside, he's definitely hoping to end their nightmare of a campaign with a win. 

On the other end, Mehran Shahintab is also not a happy man. Iran had a decent chance to pick up at least one win in the first round, but they ended up 0-3. Like coach Yeng, winning their final assignment would offer a semblance of consolation.

OVERALL

Though Iran is a fellow Asian team, they have always proven to be a tough nut to crack. Gilas still won't be favored to win here, but this is maybe their best shot at getting a W. I sure hope they can get the job done. 

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