MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines’ masterful dismantling of Saudi Arabia last August will definitely serve as an inspiration for Gilas Pilipinas when the two sides battle again this Sunday (Monday midnight in Manila) for Window 5 of the Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
But that’s all it is going to be for the Nationals: a source of motivation.
The hosts, who own a 2-5 (win-loss) card, will be taking the King Abdullah Sports City court a retooled bunch, prompting national coach Chot Reyes to tread warily into the game.
“New coach, new system, several new players with a completely new approach to the game, so we keep on telling the players that … as much it’s going to be technical, it’s [also] going to be mental,” he said.
“Tough team, tough game, so the most important for us is to be prepared for that,” Reyes added.
Six of Saudi Arabia’s players trashed in an 84-46 rout by the Philippines at Mall of Asia Arena have been replaced. The Saudis are also coming off a resounding 84-54 victory over India and are expecting to perform well behind new ace Hazim Aljohar and the crowd supercharging them.
Reyes said that his charges are well aware of the perilous trap waiting to snare them in Jeddah.
“They were already watching the film as soon as they arrived at the airport,” he said. “We continued last night even after the players went to bed.”
“We were able to do some stuff last night’s practice—even if it’s light—that we feel is going to be important for the game tomorrow.”
A win by Gilas hikes the Philippines’ record to 5-3, but more importantly, it affords the Nationals a chance at sweeping a window even without Jordan Clarkson, the Utah Jazz star who is expected to spearhead the World Cup campaign next year.
But Reyes feels that Gilas still has to touch up on three areas.
“I think we had too many turnovers (the last game); 20 (errors) were a little too much,” he said.
“We could improve on free-throw shooting percentage, and there were several breakdowns defensively, especially in transition. (That’s the top three) if you’re going to ask me,” Reyes added. INQ
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