Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin remains optimistic despite Gilas Pilipinas’ second loss to Turkey in a friendly match on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Filipinos suffered a 68-103 beating in Istanbul, Turkey nine days ago, and lost anew, 76-84, to the Turks in their second meeting.
“We improved a lot compared to the last time we played them [Turkey] but I believe we can improve more,” Baldwin told reporters.
“I think this is a good gauge on how much we’ve improved, but there is still a lot more work to do.”
But Baldwin admonished his wards that losing by a big margin in the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament beginning July 5, at the same venue is no longer acceptable, “We just can’t be behind by fourteen or fifteen,” Baldwin said. “It is just too steep to climb back.
We got to nip at these teams’ ankles for forty minutes and then hopefully we have a chance to win it in the end.”
The 6’11 naturalized Filipino center-forward Andray Blatche finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists plus two steals and a block in Gilas’ second friendly match against Turkey.
“I feel like we’ve played a lot better, we executed well, we played hard and we didn’t panic even when we were down,” said Blatche, who committed five turnovers and suffered a minor ankle sprain but still managed to finish the game. “I’m just fine, I’m just going to ice it when I go back to the hotel.”
Combo guard Terrence Romeo showed some flashes of brilliance to the delight of the hometown crowd by posting 16 points in the second half including three triples. Romeo said Gilas Pilipinas should play and focus harder each game.
“As much as possible, we should focus and do what must be done. The crowd is always there to support us,” said Romeo.
Though Gilas was unable to beat the Turks, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Manny V. Pangilinan perceived improvement in the team, “I didn’t see the game in Turkey but based on the margin that we’ve lost, this is a good indication that we played better,” he said.
“We should shoot better in the three-point and two-point zone because we are smaller than any team here,” he added.
The Turks shot accurately than the Filipinos beyond the three-point zone, 10 in 29 attempts compared to Filipinos’ 9-of-27. The taller Turks also out-rebounded the smaller Pinoys, 43-33.
Veteran power forward Jean Marc Pingris also gave the 7’1 Omer Asik of the National Basketball Association, a taste of Filipino basketball physicality, when he elbowed the New Orleans Pelicans center resulting in a commotion.
“I didn’t back down from anybody,” Pingris told reporters. “He hits me, so I hit back.”
A double technical foul caused Asik’s ejection in the early part of fourth quarter.