Gilas Pilipinas’ performance in the second window of FIBA Asian Qualifiers

The second window of the FIBA Asian Qualifiers round 1 is now officially over. Gilas dropped its first game against Australia down south, 68-84. It was followed by a thriller at home turf, where the Philippines squeaked past Japan, 89-84. The national team managed to take a 1-1 card, and a firm hold at the second spot in Group B. More importantly, Gilas clinched a spot on the second round together with the Boomers.

But there’s more to the Gilas’ performance than the split record and an assured spot in the second round. How did Gilas fare during this window? Who were the key players? How did the future without Jayson look like? Here’s a breakdown of what happened over the past week.

Gilas Blatche

What happened in the game versus Australia?

It was expected that Australia would be a tough opponent for Gilas. After all, the Boomers have the highest ranking in the Asia zone. But it was not an excuse to all the shortcomings Gilas had during their first meeting together. To say the least, almost everything that could go wrong for the Philippines during that game just did.

To start, Gilas was heavily outrebounded by the much taller Australian team, 50-30. It can be argued that the discrepancy didn’t have much of an effect since they ended up shooting almost the same number of attempts. However, all those extra chances gave the Boomers the edge on second chance points, 12-6.

Speed was supposed to favor the Philippines, but it didn’t work for them for that game. Despite having nine steals, Gilas only scored seven fastbreak points. In contrast, Australia had more fastbreak points (10) despite having fewer steals (5).

But perhaps, Gilas’ biggest problem was at the shooting department. Despite converting 51.1% of its two-point attempts, Gilas shot a subpar 26.3% from beyond the arc. As a result, they weren’t able to neutralize the size disadvantage they had against Australia. What’s worse was they only made seven of their 19 attempts in the free throw line. In comparison, the Boomers shot 25-of-32 from the charity stripe. Over half of the foul shots (and misses) came from Calvin, which could be an indicator of who was the most aggressive Filipino in the game.

Gilas Castro

What happened in the game versus Japan?

Despite the slow start, Gilas had a better showing against the Akatsuki Five. The Philippines had significantly improved in rebounds (47), assists (21), bench points (50), and second chance points (21) compared to the previous outing.

But even with the huge advantage in these departments, Gilas still needed a clutch shot from Jayson Castro to seal the win at home. Japan kept the game close due to tons of free throw attempts given to them. Gilas gave up 39 in the game, 24 of which Japan converted.

Should we worry about Gilas’ outside shooting?

I honestly don’t think shooting blanks from deep was the problem for Gilas. It was rather the effect of stagnant offense which lasted for uncomfortably long stretches. This could be a manifestation of the lack of communication among the Gilas players.

Gilas had the tendency to depend on one-on-one plays instead of moving the ball. That was evident in the game against Australia, where they only had eight assists. There were times when movement stopped once Andray Blatche received the ball. This usually ended with a series of dribbles followed by a contested shot. It wasn’t exclusive to Andray Blatche, though., as other players tend to go one-on-one, too.

The lack of communication also showed on other facets of the game. Still against Australia, Philippines had at least two inbound violations. In the first infraction, committed just seconds into the first quarter, all four Gilas players clogged into the right side of the court. They moved as if they were four individuals looking to get the ball, instead of one team trying to execute an inbounds play.

This problem could be rooted on the fact that this team was only assembled a few weeks before the second window. The players don’t necessarily enjoy the same level of familiarity when compared to their PBA ballclubs. Most of these guys are also used to having a team built around them, which could have made the transition difficult considering the PBA season is still ongoing.

It could be a tougher situation for Blatche since he doesn’t play in the country except during FIBA games. The only holdovers from the 2014 FIBA World Cup stint were Castro, Norwood, Fajardo and Aguilar. With the exception of Abueva (whom he played with during the 2015 FIBA Asia), the other guys were relatively new to Blatche. And in a game where familiarity is important, having players who do not fully know each other’s capacity can be the team’s greatest enemy.

Should we worry about Gilas’ subpar shooting? I don’t think so. I believe we should worry more about the player’s lack of communication, which can be corrected in time.

I hope it will be fixed just before the games that matter the most.

How will the future without Jayson Castro look like?

If the first game was any indication, the future for Gilas will have difficult episodes without the best point guard in Asia in the fold, as they were clobbered by the Boomers. Castro was just so perfect for the dribble drive offense, it’s unimaginable how anyone could replicate what he did for the national team.

But as The Blur slowly becomes The Blurred, the young guards need to step up to fill in his shoes. So far, one player is stepping up big time: Kiefer Ravena.

After a subpar showing against Australia, Kiefer showcased his skills at home. Against Japan, he tallied 13 points, five assists, two steals and two blocks in 30 minutes of play. He has such a good command when making plays. Here we can see how Kiefer attracted the defense before dropping it to and June Mar for an easy basket.

Another guard who had a good showing in this window was Kevin Alas. He tallied six points, four rebounds and one steal in 22 minutes against Australia.

But the race to become Gilas’ next top point guard is still wide open. Kevin Alas, Jio Jalalon, Scottie Thompson, Terrence Romeo, even Paul Lee—they’re all spokes of the wheel. Time can only tell if Ravena can stop—no, break that wheel and take over.

Has The Kraken finally arrived?

If the national team’s point guard position is wide open, the same can’t be told for the center spot. There’s no doubt in my mind that June Mar Fajardo will be the ‘ride or die’ big man for Gilas Pilipinas, at least in the next few years.

So far, June Mar showed great scoring capabilities. In the past four FIBA games, he averaged 11.3 points in 21 minutes of action. He also shot 54.1 percent from the field, which is currently the second-best in the Asian qualifiers.

However, he still needs to improve his rebounding. He only averaged 4.5 rebounds per game, which placed hm outside the top 15 rebounding centers in the Asian qualifiers. Even with the tournament’s second-best rebounder in Andray Blatche, the Philippines still finished outside the top five in rebounds after the second window. For that to change, June Mar Fajardo must unleash The Kraken on the boards.

So, has The Kraken finally arrived? Not quite yet. But one of his tentacles are surely at the door, waiting for the right time to crash the party.

Gilas Wright

What else should the Gilas work on for the third window?

Free throws.

There’s a reason why it’s called free. For Gilas to shoot 17-of-36 at the line for the second window is bad—not GOOD bad, BAD bad. It’s bad enough that Gilas gave up more free throws than they can get. It became worse when they failed to make even half of the free throws they attempted.

Can someone please call Coach Richard del Rosario? Gilas might need the services of the RDR School of Free Throw Shooting.

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