Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Gilas Pilipinas fights for survival vs Balkman-led Puerto Rico - 2014 FIBA World Cup
Even with its current winless record, Gilas Pilipinas can still make it into the 2014 FIBA World Cup Round of 16.
The narrow road compressed further when the team lost a close game against Argentina the other day. However, Gilas is not totally out of the woods yet.
It's a fight for survival as the Philippines goes up against Puerto Rico tonight at 7:30 PM. The Puerto Ricans carry a similar 0-3 record like that of Gilas.
Only four teams in each group can advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.
For the Philippines to keep its flickering hopes alive, a win over Puerto Rico is necessary, while Argentina (2-1) must also beat Senegal (2-1) in a match scheduled four hours after the PHI-PUR game.
If the scenario comes true, the Philippines versus Senegal game scheduled at 8:00PM on September 4 becomes a do-or-die match for both teams - with the winner advancing to the next round.
Puerto Rico will be led by former NBA player Renaldo Balkman, who is averaging 18 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in the tournament.
Balkman is also a former import in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) but has received a lifetime ban of playing in the league.
The status of Carlos Arroyo remains questionable tonight. The Puerto Rican playmaker missed the match against Greece after injuring his ankle in the first quarter of their game against Senegal on the second day of the tournament.
"It's a big hit for us. We need him," Balkman admitted in a FIBA interview. "He's one of our primary scorers."
"We need him to come out there with us. Unfortunately, things happens. He got hurt. But we can't dwell on that. We have to play every game."
On the other hand, Gilas will be led by Andray Blatche, while Ranidel De Ocampo, Jimmy Alapag and Gabe Norwood provide added punch to the team.
Blatche, who has been playing with pain on his knees, has averaged team-bests 21 points and 13.7 rebounds in the tournament thus far.
Gilas captain Alapag is coming off his best performance in the World Cup too, leading the late Philippine rally game against Argentina. He scored all of his 15 points in the second half.
Even without Arroyo, the Gilas playmaker will still have to contend with another pesky guard JJ Barea.
Barea is an eight-year NBA veteran, currently under contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Expect Alapag to go all-out against Barea and the Puerto Ricans in the game tonight as he has announced that the 2014 FIBA World Cup will be his last international competition. — Sports Desk Online