A trip to the round-of-16 was not to be for Gilas Pilipinas.
Puerto Rico overcame a dismal beginning to outplay the Philippine men’s national basketball team for a 77-73 victory to eliminate Gilas Pilipinas from contention.
Minnesota Timberwolves point guard JJ Barea torched Gilas for 30 points and 5 rebounds while Ricky Sanchez scored 13 and grabbed 4 rebounds. Renaldo Balkman, who is banned for life from the Philippine Basketball Association for a choking incident in 2012, was a non-factor with 2 points.
Andray Blatche led Gilas with 25 points on 9/16 shooting to go with 14 rebounds but turned the ball over 6 times. LA Tenorio was a hero early for Gilas, scoring 18 points on 6/9 shooting.
Turnovers hurt Gilas significantly, as they gave the ball up more times, 19-16. Despite having a 3-inch disadvantage in average height at 6-foot-3, Gilas had parity in rebounding at 32 total.
After four games in the group stage round, Gilas Pilipinas remain win-less after being beaten by Croatia in their first game, 78-81, then lost to Greece, 70-82, and Argentina, 81-85
Gilas Pilipinas falls to 0-4 with a final game against Senegal on Thursday night remaining while Puerto Rico improves to 1-3 in the rankings.
After the game, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manuel V. Pangilinan said he was saddened by the defeat in a game that was viewed by many as Gilas Pilipinas’ best chance to pick up a win in a tough Group B that also features Greece, Argentina, Croatia and surprise of the tourney Senegal.
“Sad,” Pangilinan said of his feelings about the game.
The sports patron added that he felt that this could be the match where the Philippines would finally break through with a win, especially with the South Americans, who were similarly winless after three games, missing out on key players Carlos Arroyo and Angel Vassalo due to injury.
Former NBA center Daniel Santiago also did not play against the Philippines.
“I was staying positive (that Gilas would win). Then when we saw the Puerto Rico team was on the court first, I counted them, there were only 10 of them,” he said.
“It didn’t look like Arroyo was there and they were missing one other player, which was probably another NBA player as well. So I thought, with 10 and two NBA players out, maybe we had a better chance.”
Philippine national men’s basketball team coach Chot Reyes on the other hand, apologized to Filipino fans after the loss at the hands of Puerto Rico.
“We’d like to apologize to Filipino fans and our supporters for no win,” Reyes said after the game, according to News5?s Lia Cruz.
“Our inexperience, of my players of myself as a coach, played a role. We fought hard. Effort was there but wasn’t enough.”
Gilas Pilipinas led by as much as 14 points against Puerto Rico, but couldn’t maintain it in the end as JJ Barea made crucial endgame shots to propel Puerto Rico to victory.
“Every game we played we had the ball in our hands, a chance to make a game winning play and we just didn’t deliver,” Reyes said.
Reyes said that the 18 turnovers of Gilas Pilipinas hurt them in the game and allowed Puerto Rico to come back.
“It’s not missed shots in end, it’s just inability to stay out of mistakes knowing how little our margin for error is,” Reyes said.
“Puerto Rico upped the pressure. Key part was late in the second quarter when Barea went to bench and we had a chance to up lead but we kept throwing ball away.”