Lack of experience clear in Gilas loss to France
FRANCE coach Vincent Collet knew something like this would happen, that his fancied squad would get hit by an emotion-fueled Gilas Pilipinas squad at some point in the ballgame.
“I think, for them (Gilas), it was a real chance to match up with the French national team,” said the coach of the squad highly favored to book the lone ticket to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics offered in this ongoing Fiba qualifying tournament.
That run came early, when Gilas Pilipinas surprised France with a hybrid dribble-drive offense that had big man Andray Blatche doing a bulk of the dribbling and driving.
The Philippines opened up a 10-point lead at the end of the first, the arena was rocking and rolling and even newly elected president Rodrigo Duterte seemed to enjoy Gilas’ stunning start.
And then the French pedigree simply took over.
This was, after all, not just any ordinary basketball squad. This was the world No. 5, which had earlier scored crushing wins against Asian biggies Iran and Japan. A veteran Olympic squad and a contender in several major international tournaments, France unlocked the Filipino puzzle early and opened its Rio de Janeiro bid on a victorious note.
“France did not panic,” admitted Gilas coach Tab Baldwin, adding that Les Bleus merely imposed its advantage and experience on a grossly overmatched but hard-fighting Philippine crew.
“Today, the Philippines played a really high-level game, their determination in front of their President, in front of the fans… think their motivation was something special, amazing, that’s why we are glad to win,” added Collet.
But emotion and motivation could only carry a team so far–in Gilas’ case, a full quarter. Once the atmosphere settled and the adrenaline burst calmed down, France exposed the country’s glaring need at the moment: More international experience.
Tony Parker, Nando de Colo and Boris Diaw combined to carve up the Filipino defensive schemes–which was focused on stopping the French perimeter players instead of focusing on Lea Bleus size–France began righting the ship and putting order in the court.
The team, as a whole, also adjusted defensively, picking off every option Gilas Pilipinas had from its high screen action meant to initiate attacks from its creative guards and then forcing Blatche into the teeth of the team’s defense on isolation plays.
The quick adjustment befuddled the Philippines, something that a little experience in the international game would have helped them with. Plus, the lack of experience showed as Gilas began turning the ball over once France began exerting its might, depriving the squad of key possessions.
“We were highly competitive despite being underdogs,” said Baldwin. “If we could play at this level a lot more, I think we could start turning in good results in games like this.”
It has become painfully clear that playing international games during or around Fiba major tournaments is no longer sufficient for a country that is trying to make an impact beyond continental borders.
With Gilas expected to go the cadet route and with youngsters like Troy Rosario and Bobby Ray Parks, who were both instrumental in the Filipinos’ stand against France, it will be easier to get more games in the international arena as there will be no more need to break the PBA schedule.
And maybe by then, when the country jumps the gun on a world heavyweight, it will manage to stay away from mental lapses and key turnovers and hold on for a huge upset.