Source : Reynaldo Belen, InterAKTV
For 37 minutes, the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team worked its short nine-man rotation in a bid to pull off an upset against a Chinese squad beefed up by three NBA veterans.
But just as expected, the Filipinos didn’t have the legs and energy to compete against the many-time FIBA Asia champion eager to earn yet another Olympic slot.
Coach Rajko Toroman missed the services of Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz for the second straight game and used 6-foot-10 forward Japeth Aguilar sparingly against the taller but equally mobile Chinese side, which went on to coast to a 75-60 victory in Day Two of the FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China.
Several basketball observers wondered why Aguilar wasn’t used much despite the manpower deficiency of the Pinoys. Two of them were veteran PBA slotman Don Allado and basketball enthusiast Tony Atayde, who posted their comments on Twitter.
“Japeth can’t get in the game. Someone put glue on the chair he’s sitting on,” tweeted Allado.
Atayde posed a more serious question. “Is there any reason why Japeth Aguilar isn’t playing?” posted Atayde.
Their concerns were answered when Aguilar checked in with three minutes to go and in the game and the match already decided.
The Chinese were business as usual as they were led by three of their best players.
Yi Jian Lian, Wang Zhi Zhi and Sun Yue, three players who have played in the NBA, played true to form in leading the Chinese squad to their second straight win in the tournament and an outright seat to the next round.
Yi, who plays forward for the Washington Wizards in the NBA, finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds despite hardly seeing action in the fourth period.
Wang, the comebacking national team member of China, who played for three NBA teams, had 16 points, including several on nifty moves to the basket.
Sun, a member of the 2009 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, contributed 15 points.
The three NBA players coupled with China’s height advantage – they had an average height of 6-foot-8 compared to the 6-foot-3 average of the Filipinos – were too much for the Philippines to handle as SMART-Gilas absorbed its first loss in the tournament.
Until Aguilar entered late in the game, Toroman relied on just nine players, including several who were unhealthy.
Marcus Douthit, Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo alternated in playing up front, but Yi and Wang were able to hold their own against their counterparts, knocking down jumper after jumper.
The Chinese posted their biggest lead, 51-27, in the third period, before Yi and Wang returned to the bench.
With two of China’s best frontliners off the floor, the Filipinos were able to outscore their rivals, 20-12, and found themselves trailing by only 15 points, 40-55, entering the final quarter.
The last time the Philippines threatened was during the early part of the fourth when Williams issued a nice assist to the cutting Barroca for a 42-55 tally, but things changed when Sun caught fire and unloaded two treys as China weathered the Pinoys’ rally.
Sun’s long triple gave the Chinese a 65-46 spread, midway through the final period, and Aguilar was schooled by the very experienced Wang, whose variety of moves caught the young Filipino’s defense flatfooted several times in the latter part of the fourth quarter.
Wang scored six of his team’s last eight points as China cruised to the win.
CHINA 75—Yi J.L. 20, Wang 16, Sun Y. 15, Zhu 13, Zhang Z. 3, Liu 2, Zhang B. 2, Yi L. 2Yu 1, Su W. 0, Xirelijiang 0.
PHILIPPINES 60—Douthit 17, Tiu 12, Williams 6, Casio 5, Alapag 5, Aguilar 4, Baracael 4, de Ocampo 3, Barroca 2, Taulava 2.Quarters: 22-13; 43-21; 55-40; 75-60
Indonesia 61 - Syria 74 FINAL
Uzbekistan 71 - Chinese Taipei 61 FINAL
Jordan 87 - Japan 92 FINAL
Lebanon 62 - Korea 80 FINAL
Qatar 4 - Iran 40 DUE TO DEFAULT