We played this game to prepare (Angola), but it’s not the World Cup.
So said national coach Chot Reyes on Friday night, shortly after Gilas Pilipinas’ 85-62 rout of Ivory Coast saw the Nationals win the first of their last three tune-up games in sight. of the World Cup.
“That’s how Angola plays strong in defence. They really put pressure on basketball. Their guards are attacking the ledge. They have great strong and powerful men. They are very long and athletic, but I think the difference is that Angola have much better outside shooters than this Ivory Coast team,” he added in a dispatch released by the national federation on Saturday.
That, piled on the error-ridden play of his proteges behind the closed doors of Philsports Arena in Pasig City, kept him from celebrating victory.
“(There are) still some flaws in the attack. We’ve had 18 turnovers and that’s something we need to sort out,” he said.
But it’s not like Reyes is trying to be hard to please.
“We’re reassured that at least we’ve had one game under our belt where we’ve had those three,” referring to the trio of Jordan Clarkson, Kai Sotto and Scottie Thompson. “As you’ve seen, (Jordan) had a few turnovers, but it’s going to get better in the next two games.”
“I love the way Scottie has moved. You can see Kai was a big factor. Even though he hasn’t come back 100 per cent from his back issues yet, he just gives us that depth that we have much needed on the front line.
Open the way
Clarkson led the way with 13 points, tying June Mar Fajardo, a six-time PBA MVP who has been the most stable member of the practice squad. Sotto was equally commendable, finishing in double digit scores alongside AJ Edu. Thompson, meanwhile, showed no ill effects from his previously fractured hand with 11 points, four rebounds and five assists.
Clarkson, Sotto and Thompson were the latest members of the talent pool to join the roster and with all back just five days before the big dance, Reyes hopes Gilas can finally smooth out any remaining cracks in their game.
That’s exactly what they can do at 8 p.m. this Sunday against Montenegro in another closed-door friendly that will pit the Nationals against a bigger team bolstered by NBA talent.
“Montenegro is a very different team. Stronger. European style. (Nikola) Vucevic is there, a genuine NBA starter for his team and a few others,” Reyes said. “We will fight, but we will see. We are looking to play better than today.
Kick things off Gilas is finishing his preparations when he faces Mexico on Monday. But even if the Nationals completed a sweep of their last three tune-up games, they would still need to up the ante once they face world No. 23 Dominican Republic on opening night of the World Cup on Friday next week.
The Dominicans look even fiercer after overthrowing 15th-placed Canada on Saturday 94-88 in Karl-Anthony Town’s debut for the men’s team. The NBA star finished with 20 points built on a 6-on-9 shot that gave the Caribbean a win in their first preseason game.
Gilas is also grouped with the world No.10 Italians who have been perfect in their preseason games so far. INQ
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