Mission Possible: 5 keys to Gilas Pilipinas beating France

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Gilas Pilipinas will open their Manila OQT campaign tonight against the World #5 France at the Mall of Asia Arena. Millions of Filipinos have eagerly waited for their National Team to test their mettle against global basketball heavyweights.

Our National Team is coming in as a heavy underdog versus France and an opposing coach even remarked that Gilas has no chance winning in that game. That’s okay. Everyone has an opinion. As for my opinion, I think Gilas Pilipinas has a shot and can definitely win against France.

How? Here are 5 keys to the game that could help Gilas Pilipinas topple France.

1. Attack the NBA players

Team France boasts of having 4-time NBA champion Tony Parker and versatile big man Boris Diaw on their active roster vs Gilas (Nic Batum is not expected to play). The Philippines cannot come into this game afraid or intimidated of Parker and Diaw. They should respect them but remain competitive and focused.

Our players that end up being guarded by Parker, probably Castro, Romeo, Reyes and Parks (or others), must always attack Parker’s defense at all times. TP is an excellent player but his defense is certainly a glaring weakness. Parker is prone to reaching in and he doesn’t fight screens consistently enough, so his defensive assignment will have ample opportunities to score. Gilas should exploit this match up with the hopes of tiring Parker and getting him into foul trouble.

Aside from Parker, Gilas should also aim to do damage against Boris Diaw. He is arguably their best passer and playmaker while being a heavy presence in the low post. However, he is not athletic, not a rim protector and definitely not quick on his feet. Perhaps, Gilas can force the issue by having pick and rolls using the players Parker and Diaw are guarding. Maybe a foul or two or easy shots can be accomplished.


2. Communicate on Defense

One weakness of Gilas that was evident during their exhibition games was their often poor coverage of pick and roll/pop plays. In general, defending this basic play can be difficult but it is not unstoppable, especially if the defense is aggressive and expecting the action.

France tends to use a lot of different variations of the pick-and-roll sets so Gilas must be ready to contain those plays. One thing Gilas can do is to trap/double team the ball handler when a screen is coming. This ideally forces the playmaker to stop his dribble and look to pass the ball.

Now, Gilas can focus on rotating to the screener or receiver of the pass while lessening the chance for the ball handler to launch an open jumper. Another thing they need to do is to talk loud and often. Gilas needs to know who and when to switch defensive assignments or when to leave a player because he is not a threat or beyond his shooting range. Gilas should also be aware of their match-ups when playing man-to-man to avoid backdoor cuts or easy access to the paint.

Finally, Gilas has to always stop the ball handler during fast breaks and transition opportunities. They cannot let the likes of Parker waltzed towards the hoop unguarded.


3. Make threes

Gilas Pilipinas lacks height and size which limits the scoring options available for them. Posting up is not advantageous and driving to the paint can be difficult when they don’t have a lot of slashers who can challenge bigs. Therefore, three-point shooting is an important part of their offense and they need to take and hopefully make a lot of them.

During their 2014 exhibition game vs Team France, Gilas managed to stay close and only lost 68-75, in large part due to their prolific scoring from beyond the arc which was 12 out of 29 three-point attempts (41%). If Gilas can approach that number and percentage, then they will most probably be within striking range of Les Bleus, maybe even have the lead.

Moreover, in the 2 exhibition games of Gilas in Manila vs Iran (win) and Turkey (loss), Gilas made more threes against Iran and won the game while Gilas was unable to outshoot Turkey from three and they lost that game. So a simple formula would be to make more threes than France.


4. No Slow Start, Run and Press

The home team needs to be the aggressor and they should do their best to force the issue at the beginning of the game. The fans will be loud, crazy and excited and so should the players because home court advantage needs to play a role and become a positive influence for Gilas. At the same time, it would be problematic for Gilas to fall behind early because it knocks the energy out of the crowd and rallying from a deficit typically becomes more draining.

Thus, running in transition and getting easy buckets must go hand-in-hand with forcing turnovers. To force more miscues, Gilas will probably use full court pressure more often. Last week vs Turkey, full court pressure was used for only a short time and the primary players were Terrence Romeo and Ray Parks. It was successful during its brief usage.

Aside from them, Jasyon Castro and Gabe Norwood would be ideal players to employ this tactic. Now, playing full court press is tough to sustain for the whole game so it is doubtful that Gilas uses this often.

However, if they are able to bombard France with surprising combinations, Gilas should be able to generate turnovers that will lead to easy baskets.


5. Local Support

It is a given that Andray Blatche needs to be our best player on both offense and defense. He is expected to produce monster numbers. However, Blatche cannot do it all on his own because he will get tired faster and France will adjust their defense to focus on him.

So, the onus will be on the rest of the team to pick up the slack. EVERYONE needs to contribute and do their jobs. Gilas Pilipinas instantly becomes a more dangerous team when Romeo/Parks drive to the paint, Chan/Reyes/Castro/Norwood hit threes, JMF/Ping rebound and RDO/Aguilar/Troy make midrange jumpers, etc.

This is still a team game and Gilas needs to remember their game plan and they have to follow the instructions of the coaching staff. They cannot rely on isolation plays and contested jumpers. Ball movement and shot selection will be very important for Gilas Pilipinas.

Of course, Gilas can still lose even if they do all of the things listed here. Hopefully, they compete and stay close with France. As long as our National Team gives their full effort, I will be contented. The win will follow. #LabanPilipinas #ManilaOQT #PUSO — By Rolly Mendoza