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GAME OF DEATH — Wounded Filipinos in must-win mode vs Italians

SCOTTIE Thompson and Gilas Pilipinas are in must-win situation when they face Italy in the preliminaries of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FIBA

Two straight losses and the chances of Gilas Pilipinas to advance to the second round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup are already looking bleak.

But a defiant Gilas coach Chot Reyes remains clinging on to fate, hoping to pull off a miraculous victory over a powerhouse Italian squad on Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to keep their flickering hopes alive.

Gilas will have one last chance to get that elusive win at 8 p.m. after getting buried at the bottom of the team standings following disappointing setbacks to the Dominican Republic and Angola.

At stake is not only the host team’s chances of hitching a ride to the next round but also the opportunity to book a flight to Paris for next year’s Olympics as Asia’s best-placed team in this 32-nation tournament.

The Filipinos must bring out their A-game to measure up against the World No. 10 Italians, who are tied with Angola at the second spot with identical 1-1 win-loss cards.

It will be a tall order for Gilas after getting outworked by the Angolans in a 70-80 loss Sunday night.

A win by Gilas coupled with the second round-bound Dominican Republic completing a sweep of the group stage will force a three-way tie at second spot.

In this scenario, the team with the superior quotient will join the Dominicans in the next round.

This means Gilas’ fate is already out of their hands and they now need to pray for a favorable result in the Dominican-Angolan match — not to mention the fact that they need to beat the European powerhouse by a huge margin.

“We all know the mathematics of the situation. The first thing for us is to make sure to come out and prepare and find a way to win that game and then the quotient will take care of itself but for us,” Reyes said.

“We focus on what we need to do to be able to compete against the Top 10 team in the world.”

Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson would need to have better support on offense after finishing as the lone Gilas player in double figures with 21 points and seven assists.

Rebounding is also something Gilas have to address. Against Angola, the Filipinos gave away 20 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 15 times.

“We focus on what’s within our hands so there’s a game to be played on Tuesday. We’re going to come out and prepare as best we can to play a top 10 team Italy. That’s all we’re gonna do right now,” Reyes said.

“Whatever is happening to the other teams is not within our control. We can only focus on what’s within our control right now.”

Then there is also the added pressure of keeping the Olympics window open.

Unfortunately for Gilas, the other
co-host team Japan just put a foot closer to an Olympic berth after shocking National Basketball Association standout Lauri Markkanen and Finland, 98-88, on the same night Angola broke the Filipinos’ hearts.

“We hope Japan loses its last game and we win our last game then it’s all tied. I don’t know how they’re going to break that time. But in the end, it’s going to be dependent on other games, it’s not going to be in our hands,” Reyes said, hoping the Japanese lose to Australia today in their Group E match in Osaka.

“The only thing that’s within our control right now is the next game, we can’t worry about the other things that are going on.”

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