(UPDATE) AFTER falling short against the Dominican Republic on opening night on Friday, Gilas Pilipinas tries to get the much-needed win when it clashes with Angola in the 2023 FIBA World Cup group stage tonight as action shifts to the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Filipinos, still licking their wounds after bowing to the Dominicanas, 87-81, clash with the African squad at 8 p.m.
“Angola pressures the ball just as much as [the] Dominican Republic did, so we need to make some adjustments in our offense,” Reyes said.
Gilas practically shot itself on its foot after turning the ball 19 times, which hurt the Philippines’ chances of pulling off an upset against the Karl-Anthony Towns-led Dominican Republic.
Jordan Clarkson had 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but he also had eight turnovers.
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Other than taking care of the basketball, Reyes noted Gilas will also have to control the boards against an Angola side that bowed to world No. 10 Italy, 81-67, in the first game on opening day.
“The story is our 19 turnovers, and we gave up 17 offensive rebounds or something. We have to make sure we are able to cope with the defensive pressure of Angola,” said Reyes, whose team held a 72-69 advantage midway in the fourth quarter before eventually collapsing in the end.
Reyes felt they blew their chances of somehow rewarding the Filipinos fans, who literally came in droves to support Gilas.
“That’s why it was such a downer, a letdown because that [win] could have been a great gift to the record number of people who came out,” shared Reyes, pointing to the 38,115 people who came to support Gilas, a feat that shattered the 29-year-old record of 32,616 set during the 1994 FIBA World Cup final between the US and Russia in Toronto, Canada. A win against Angola enhances the Philippines’ chances as it aims to be the top Asian finisher, which could, hopefully, secure Gilas the lone Asian spot in the Paris Olympics in 2024.
The Philippines though will have to look for ways to contain Angola’s 1-2 punch of big man Bruno Fernando and creative playmaker Childe Dundao.
Dundao, the 5-foot-6 point guard, led Angola with 19 points, three rebounds, three assists in two steals against Italy, while Fernando had 13 and five boards.
“It was a good atmosphere, but we lost [to Italy], and we feel bad, so we need to work hard because we have another game,” Dundao said, a star in the Angolan Basketball League. “We will try to compete again with the Philippines.”
The remainder of the first-round games of Groups A and B will be played at Smart Araneta Coliseum until September 3.
The Group D games also tipped off at Mall of Asia Arena with Egypt and Lithuania raising the curtains and Mexico taking on Montenegro on opening day.
Team USA will kick off its Group C campaign on Saturday against New Zealand at Mall of Asia Arena, followed by the match between Greece and Jordan as the games in Okinawa, Japan and Jakarta, Indonesia also fired off.
The Final Phase from September 5 to 10 is set at Mall of Asia Arena. This is the country’s second hosting of the World Cup after the 1978 edition in Manila.
Cheering with the thousands of Filipinos at the Arena was President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who lauded Gilas Pilipinas for their “valiant effort” despite the loss.
In a Facebook post, the President assured Gilas of the Filipino people’s support on their FIBA journey.
“A valiant effort by Gilas Pilipinas! Already you have proven that Filipino athleticism is world-class,” Marcos said.
“The nation stands in full support of your 2023 FIBA World Cup journey,” he added.
Marcos was also elated that the Philippines had achieved its target of breaching the world record with 38,115 basketball fans cheering inside the world’s largest indoor arena, which has a 55,000-seat capacity.
“Congratulations, as well, to every attendee who helped set a new crowd record!” the President said. The President briefly met with the Gilas Pilipinas players and took a photo with them during half-time at the end of the second quarter.
Most of the fans came from the free 400 point-to-point shuttle buses from 12 strategic take-off points around Metro Manila, Pampanga and Bulacan.
Sarah Geronimo, the Dawn and Ben&Ben entertained the crowd after the Italy-Angola game.