The battle gets tougher for Gilas Pilipinas as it takes on dangerous Thailand in the men’s basketball competition of the 19th Asian Games on Thursday at the Zijingang Gymnasium inside Zhejiang University here.
Game time is set at 11 a.m. with the Filipinos looking to sustain the momentum they gained from their 89-61 opening victory over former Philippine Basketball Association import Wayne Chism and Bahrain on Tuesday.
Led by ex-UCLA Bruin Tyler Lamb, the Thais will be looking to rebound from a 97-63 thrashing at the hands of Jordan and TNT Giga import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson last Tuesday.
Hollis-Jefferson, who will be rejoining TNT for the upcoming PBA season starting 5 November, played more than 30 minutes against the Thais, scoring 20 points on 6-of-15 from the floor with seven rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Gilas head coach Tim Cone was talking about getting his hands on the video of the Jordan-Thailand game even before he had walked off the court after their match against Bahrain.
“We need to break down their game,” Cone said, wary of their regional rivals.
“We saw them (Thais) in the Southeast Asian Games, but we’re not matched up against them. They were knocked out by Cambodia. So we hope we’ll have a better feel of Thailand than we did. We gotta need to because Thailand’s a much stronger team than Bahrain.”
The Philippines won the men’s basketball gold medal in the SEA Games, beating host Cambodia in the final.
As on the eve of the game against Bahrain, Cone presided over a film viewing of the Thailand-Jordan game with spliced clips of the Thais’ top players other than Lamb, who was 3-of-14 from the field, including 2-of-10 beyond the arc. His two rebounds were among the lowest for the team.
In his place, 5-foot-8 guard Frederick Lish had 13 points on 6-of-19 from the field but was abysmal from outside, going 1-of-9 in treys.
The Gilas defense is expected to zero in on Thailand’s other licensed perimeter shooters like Nattakarn Muangboon, who was 3-of-7 in triples, and Jakongmee Morgan, Naratip Boonserm, and Nakom Jaisanuk, all of whom took three three-pointers each or more against Jordan.
Steady improvement as the Games move on is Gilas’ priority mindset, according to Cone.
“We gotta go up the level, we gotta continue to rise in our game ‘cause we’re gonna play a tougher opponent each time out,” he said.
“I mean, from Bahrain to Thailand to Jordan, and perhaps to the next round, whether it be Korea or Japan or whoever, and hopefully to the semis, maybe to the finals, we gotta continue to lift the level of our game, that’s important.”