Gilas to continue training even after Mexico friendly

Gilas will continue polishing their plans for the FIBA World Cup even if they wrap up their friendly series against Mexico on Monday night. Dennis Acosta (file photo)
By Dugout Philippines

MANILA—There will be no rest for the weary as far as Gilas Pilipinas is concerned, with only a few days to go before the FIBA Basketball World Cup commences at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Asked whether he will consider giving his players a break after three grueling tune-up games—the third against Mexico Monday night—Gilas coach Chot Reyes shook his head.

“Hindi na, tuloy-tuloy na kami, tatlong araw na lang e,” Reyes said, minutes after Gilas Pilipinas faced Montenegro and Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Vucevic, holding the world No. 18 at bay in the first half before losing steam in the third quarter of a 102-87 loss Sunday night at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

Reyes used a 14-man roster against the Montenegrins, sitting down Ray Parks and Thirdy Ravena while giving Calvin Oftana some minutes after all three missed the Ivory Coast friendly last Friday.

Indications are that Reyes will be exhausting his remaining pre-World Cup team practices starting Tuesday to further sharpen the team’s game before submitting his Final 12 lineup at the Managers’ Meeting on Aug. 23 or 24.

Gilas kicks off its bid to emerge as the World Cup’s top Asian finisher, thereby securing a spot in the Paris Olympics next year, on Aug. 25 against FIBA Americas qualifier Dominican Republic.

The Nationals next face FIBA Africa entry Angola on Aug. 27, and wrap up the first round of the Group Phase against world No. 10 Italy, from FIBA Europe, on Aug. 29.

Two wins out of three could merit the Philippines' passage to the second round of the Group Phase where the top two teams from the bracket that contains South Sudan, China, Puerto Rico, and Serbia await.

The Dominican Republic, behind Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists, beat Canada, 94-88, in a preparatory friendly in Granada, Spain recently.

Reyes, who describes Towns as a “legitimate NBA All-Star first team player,” said the Dominican Republic is “truly strong,” adding that although it lost to defending champion Spain in a succeeding tune-up 86-77, it still looked impressive.

“They have Towns and that other guy, [Lester] QuiƱones,” said Reyes. “They are very good. The game against Spain was close [up to the third quarter].”

To some degree, the same could be said of the tune-up between Gilas Pilipinas and Montenegro, where Montenegro trailed several times in the first half before flexing its size in the third quarter and going to Vucevic to save the day.

Montenegro head coach Bosko Radovic said his team played with “hesitation” in the first half, “on both offense and defense.”

Vucevic, rising to the challenge at the start of the second half, with 11 of his 18 points during the period, and the Montenegrins going on an aggressive run that turned a 44-42 halftime edge to a 13-point lead, changed all that.

“I think we played with more discipline in the second half,” said Radovic, whose team is bracketed in Group D with Egypt, Mexico, and world No. 8 Lithuania, their Group Phase games are to be played at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The top two teams from this group will face their counterparts from Group C, where the United States, Greece, Jordan, and New Zealand are competing.

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