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3 things we learned: Gilas Pilipinas takes down Iran

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Gilas Pilipinas shattered doubts in its biggest test of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship yet, as it took down defending gold medal winners Iran in an emphatic 87-73 win.

The all-important victory clears the Philippines’ path to claiming first seed in Group E. All the team needs to do now is to defeat India tomorrow in their last second round assignment that positions them in a place where it will not be facing China or Korea in the quarter-finals.

Gilas, as expected, went on a zone early in the match against Iran although the pick and rolls of their opponents led to kick out passes to the opposite corner or wing. Iran was able to make their outside shots early on and built a sizable margin heading into the second half.

That was when everyone else from the Gilas unit decided to become aggressive. Coupled with the right defensive strategy and the right combination on the floor, Gilas was able to out-run their foes and have a multi-faceted attack offensively, while maintaining the defensive intensity throughout the third and fourth periods for the win.

Synergy works on both endsPhilippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times 3 things we learned: Gilas Pilipinas takes down Iran

Again, this Gilas squad is not a mere collection of individual talents but a group which best works as a cohesive whole.

Head coach Tab Baldwin knows what to do with what tools he has, and was able to field in the right comination on the floor. He knows just who to use and who to insert given the situation.

Towards the end of the third quarter, Gilas went on a 2-1-2 zone defense. Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Dondon Hontiveros, and Andray Blatche were the five on the floor. Later, Marc Pingris checked in.

The defensive scheme funneled Iran’s drives off pick and rolls to Blatche in the middle of the paint, while the two Gilas defenders near the baseline allowed themselves an opportunity to recover should there be any kickout pass after the attack.

In the fourth quarter when the Philippines scored the knockout punch, it was Abueva who was all over the place, making an impact with his activity underneath. Ranidel de Ocampo threw his weight around too, finishing with 10 rebounds, helping Gilas narrowly beat their bigger foes in the rebounding battle, 40-39.

Pingris was scoreless in almost 18 minutes but was plus-11. Abueva was plus-16 and had 13 points and 6 rebounds.

On offense, Baldwin’s 5-out basketball opened the lanes for our aggressive guards. With Castro and Romeo taking turns in attacking the basket and creating opportunities for other teammates, it became too difficult for Iran to stop Gilas in the second half.

Blatche himself was aggressive and lured the bigs outside. He did not settle for outside shots but kept beating his defenders one on one, off the dribble with drives to the basket. He had 18 points including 11 free throw attempts.

Jayson Castro is the best point guard in AsiaPhilippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times 3 things we learned: Gilas Pilipinas takes down Iran

And this time he made sure there is a disparity between him and his closest competitor Mehdi Kamrani of Iran.

Castro bested Kamrani in 2013 as he was selected part of the All-Star 5 in the FIBA Asia tournament, and now he proved he was simply at a different dimension.

Castro finished with a game-high 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting, scoring on a slew of drives which punished the Iranian defense. And it worked even better with the space that Gilas’ lineup creates. His tremendous ability to get to the rim at blitzing speeds is being utilized effectively and he has became even more mature with the decision-making.

An aggressive, scoring Castro is tough to beat on any night, and with his three-point shooting continuing to improve, who knows what limits there are for him.

Gilas answers questions on defense, depthPhilippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times 3 things we learned: Gilas Pilipinas takes down Iran

Iran was held down to only 37.2 percent from two-point distance, and committed 16 turnovers in the match as they succumbed to pressure towards the end.

With a quicker defensive unit in the second half, Hamad Haddadi struggled, and ended with only 10 points and 7 boards this time, a stark contrast from how he lorded over the competition prior to the match.

Iran was also defeated by a more eager effort from Gilas which seemed to bully them. Gilas simply brought it, especially in the second half, notwithstanding the challenge from the reigning gold medal holders.

Iran’s bench was also stymied this time. Mohamed Hassanzadeh, Oshin Sahakian, Hamed Afagh were averaging 25.8 points combined in the tournament, but all three combined for only 2 points in the match against Gilas.

They were never able to get rhythm offensively as they were too concerned withstopping Gilas’ juggernaut in the second half.

The Philippines will sure build on this win for the deeper stages of the tournament as they continue to shoot for the Olympic berth.

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