Fiba World Cup: Asian teams jockey for best finish
National coach Chot Reyes and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas have written down the target for Gilas Pilipinas: Two wins.
The number has more to do with improving the federation’s best performance in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
Teams that can clinch two wins in the group stage of the event kicking off on Aug. 25 will most likely advance to the knockout phase. And those two wins will be vital for the six Asian teams that are in an in-tournament race among themselves.
The top finisher among those squads, as well as the top performers for each continent in the tournament, will book an outright slot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Philippines, China, Jordan, Japan, Iran and Lebanon will join 26 other teams from around the world in the World Cup, with none of them favored to go all the way to the title fight. But those six teams will be looking to outdo each other as they engage in a footrace to Paris.
The Philippines is grouped with Italy, Dominican Republic and Angola in Group A. And Reyes has figured out the best way to get two wins.
“A lot of our efforts are really poured into preparing for the Dominican Republic and Angola. Those are the two games we really have to get. But of course, we are still going to talk about Italy,” Reyes said.
Group A will kick off the tournament at Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan province, with Angola and Italy battling it out at 4 p.m. and hometown heroes Gilas Pilipinas facing off with NBA’s Karl-Anthony Towns-led Dominican Republic at 8 p.m.Gilas, who is backstopped by Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson, faces Angola next on Aug. 27, Sunday, at 8 p.m. before testing its mettle against World No.10 Italy on Aug. 29 also at 8 p.m.
China is bracketed in Group B with South Sudan, Serbia and Puerto Rico. Led by naturalized player Kyle Anderson of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, the Asian powerhouse is touted to have the best chance at advancing. China faces the Nikola Jokic-less Serbia and Bogdan Bogdanovic on Saturday at 8 p.m. before battling South Sudan on Aug. 28 and World No. 20 Puerto Rico on Aug. 30 in what could be a decider for the group’s No. 2 spot.
Only two teams will advance from each group.
Jordan faces a tough trek in Group C, where it battles the USA, Greece and New Zealand.
Japan hopes it can ride on Phoenix Suns forward Yuta Watanabe and the support of its home crowd in Okinawa, a tournament cohost, where it will face Germany, Finland and Australia.
Over in Jakarta, Iran gets its Olympic bid going against Spain, Côte d’Ivoire and Brazil in Group G while Lebanon battles Canada, Latvia and France at Indonesia Arena.
If no Asian team makes it to the next round, they will be part of the lower classification group, with the highest-placed finisher there booking the Paris ticket.
The other competing teams are Group D’s Egypt, Mexico, Montenegro and Lithuania, who will be playing at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Group F’s Luka Doncic-led Slovenia, Cape Verde, debuting Georgia and Venezuela will be competing at Okinawa Arena.
After 48 games in the first round of the group phase, the top two teams of each group will advance and merge to battle it out in the second round as Groups I, J and K while the bottom two teams of each group will merge to form second round classification Groups M, N, O and P starting Aug. 31. INQ