After an impressive 96-59 victory over Kazakhstan in their first game at the 2018 Asian Games, the Philippine men’s basketball team will be up for the challenge as they face China in their Pool A encounter. Here are the most intriguing questions leading into this contest.
How does Jordan Clarkson improve our chances?
It is a tremendous boost for the Philippines to get another perimeter scorer in Clarkson. He also has the ability to create scoring opportunities especially when plays go stale. The Philippine point guards will look for him most of the time, which makes him a marked man on the side of China. In that case, he can also serve as decoy to attract multiple defenders and find the open guys for scores. However, he is not that good of a pick-and-roll guard. He is more comfortable coming off another screen and coach Yeng Guiao will factor that in his game plan.
How should we play offense to defeat China?
Since the Chinese have a taller line-up, we must match that with speed. The Philippine ballers must look to run in transition whenever possible because it would be challenging to crack China’s defense once it is established. Expect the rotation of players to be quicker to avoid fatigue from a fast-paced game. Stanley Pringle and Paul Lee must establish and sustain the tempo early on to wear out the Chinese.
Likewise, China will utilize its height advantage by primarily playing zone defense. In that case, the Philippines must convert their perimeter shots to open up lanes inside. In the game against Kazakhstan, the Philippine national team converted 59% of 39 total two-point attempts and drained 12 three-pointers. If they can sustain or improve that performance, the chances of winning are great. The big men should also knock down medium-range jumpers to draw out their taller defenders and free up the paint for our slashers.
What’s the best way to defend the Chinese?
China is more comfortable playing the half-court set. Therefore, our players must throw their guards off their game by being aggressive in the passing lanes. The team forced the Kazakhs to commit 22 turnovers, 16 of which came from steals. That same type of aggression will give China a much harder time in executing their plays. It won’t be surprising if coach Guiao will dial up a lot of pressure defense for this game.
Let’s not forget that in some ways, we got lucky against Kazakhstan given their dismal shooting especially in the first quarter. We can’t expect the same thing to happen against a Chinese team with tremendous firepower. Likewise, our big men should look after their fouls too by playing honest but physical defense.
Who to watch out for in Team China?
They have the luxury of having two seven-footers with varying skill sets. Wang Zhelin will do more damage in the offensive end, while Houston Rockets center Zhou Qi will shut the basket on defense with his long wing span. However, Wang is not an excellent free throw shooter which can work to the Philippines’ advantage. But as one of the best teams in Asia, the Chinese attack will also be fueled by point guard Fang Shuo and speedy shooting guard Sun Minghui.
Meanwhile, two-time Chinese Basketball Association MVP and current Dallas Mavericks player Ding Yanyuhang is an explosive guard-forward who can also light it up from three-point range. Let’s not forget Golden State Warriors summer camp player Abudushalamu Abudurexiti as well. Liu Zhixuan is their outside shooting specialist, while Dong Hanlin and Yu Changdong will beef up their interior defense.
Who’s the X-factor for the Philippines?
Nope, it’s not Clarkson. Rather, it’s Stanley Pringle. Hailed by Ateneo De Manila head coach Tab Baldwin as the “best point guard in Asia”, Pringle’s shiftiness and scoring ability will be vital in fooling China’s defense. He can dribble to the hoop against slower defenders but he can also stop on a dime to either take the long ball or make a dish to a teammate. He had a nice 18-point outing in their Asian Games opener. We will be in good hands if he can keep the momentum against China.