As expected, Gilas beat Japan to advance to the gold medal match. Japan put up a good fight. They were within striking distance until the last few minutes of the game until Gilas came up with big shots in the final quarter. Just like in their first game, I was expecting a blow-out win by Gilas. That’s why it was a drag to see the game really close. It wasn’t that Gilas wasn’t playing really well, but it seemed that this Japanese team has really improved tremendously. Since the Jones Cup, they have shown big potential. And they have proven it here in the Fiba-Asia Tournament.
Hie Jima was unconscious in the first half, scoring 22 points. Luckily, GIlas’ defense picked up in the second half and they managed to limit Hie Jima to only 6 points after that. The most important factor was Hontiveros finally catching fire. The whole nation already know what he is capable of doing and he showed it in this game. Hontiveros hit 6 triples, the last being the dagger that sealed the win for Gilas. As usual, Blatche and Castro were the consistent contributors on the offensive side.
Although I’m very excited to see the Gilas-China match, I don’t really care who wins anymore. To see this Gilas team reach the final despite the odds against them, I feel that they have already overachieved. Though of course, I have always believed that Pilipinas Basketbol has always been one of the best in Asia.
Again, I’ve always felt that we could beat any team in Asia at this point, especially if we have the best players available. This Chinese team is very strong and talented, but still inexperienced. They have shown some mettle though, in their games against Korea. Down by 20, they came back strong in the fourth quarter to steal that game. That was a strong statement to the rest of the field that this Chinese team is a force to be reckoned with.
Based on what I saw, they were beatable. But of course, I have to give credit to the Chinese coaching staff. They really prepared against Gilas. Castro and Romeo were tightly guarded all throughout the game. That was the difference- those two guys not producing enough numbers for the team.
Looking at the stat sheet, the second half were almost even. Gilas was not outrebounded by a lot. We even had more steals than China. Fouls were almost equal as well. It was China’s energy in the late first quarter and the whole of second quarter that separated those two teams.
And so I thought, especially for this game, if we had Fajardo and Lassiter on the team, we could have beaten China loud and clear. But that is that. Back-to-back silver medals are not bad at all.
We have once again proven that we really are one of the best in Asia. And the gap is very narrow now. China, Iran, Korea, Gilas, are all right up there. On a given night, any team can beat the other. It’s that close.