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All or nothing as Gilas Pilipinas begins final drive for Rio



Three months after the third iteration of Gilas Pilipinas was formed, the Philippine national basketball team comes down to the knockout stages of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship where they have to win three times in succession to make it to to the 2016 Olympics.

Gilas’ knockout phase begins with a clash with world no. 34 Lebanon on Thursday. The Lebanese are being led by Jasmon Youngblood who is averaging 19 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG, and 1.5 SPG.

On the other side of that bracket is a battle between world no. 48 Qatar, which placed second in Group F, and world no. 47 Japan, the Group E third-placers.

Clinton Johnson has been on a tear for the Qataris, averaging 20.6 PPG and 6.2 RPG. He fired 30 points or more two times, and led Qatar in a 69-63 win over Korea, the highlight so far of their campaign in this tournament.

Big man Joji Takeuchi will carry the cudgels for Japan. In the first two rounds he is averaging 15.8 PPG and 12.2 RPG.

The winner of the Philippines-Lebanon and Qatar-Japan matches face each other in the semi-finals.

Giants battle for survival

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times All or nothing as Gilas Pilipinas begins final drive for Rio

In the other bracket are all the pre-tournament favorites and teams with reputation as powerhouses.

Defending champion and world no. 17 Iran take on world no. 28 Korea, while host nation and world no. 14 China square off against rising basketball nation and world no. 61 India.

Promising big Mohammed Hassanzadeh is the reigning gold medal winners’ main weapon so far, averaging 12.8 PPG. Asghar Kardoust, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, and Mehdi Kamrani are all averaging in double-digits while Hamad Haddadi is not far behind at 9.6 PPG.

Yang Dong Geun is Korea’s main weapon, averaging 18.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 6.0 APG while shooting at an astounding rate from three-point territory at 59.1 percent.

Amjyot Singh has been leading India with his 23 PPG while playmaker Vishesh Bhriguvanshi is the second leading scorer at 15.3 PPG and top assists maker at 4.8 APG.

The Chinese have been leaning on superstar Yi Jianlian, who leads the group with 17.8 PPG and 8.2 RPG although the team has an abundance of offensive weapons, with five other players including Guo Ailun and Zhou Qi averaging 8 points or more per ballgame.

Only two from the Iran-Korea and China-India matches shall make it to the semi-finals.

Scorching-hot hopes

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times All or nothing as Gilas Pilipinas begins final drive for Rio

With such pairings in the knockout phase, it is practically a relatively easier path for Gilas Pilipinas towards the final. The Philippines will be avoiding Iran, Korea, and China until the gold medal match if the team makes it that far.

So for the nationals, it’s about maintaining the relentlessness and playing Gilas basketball whoever the opponents are.

In the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, Jordan did the Philippines a huge favor by beating Iran in the quarter-finals. The Philippines went on to face Jordan in the semi-finals. Prior to the semis, the Philippines already defeated Jordan in the second round.

But Jordan got away in the semi-finals, and kicked the Philippines out of the tournament.

Gilas 3 wouldn’t want that to happen again so they have to get past Lebanon and stay hungry against either Japan or Qatar while exerting the same amount of effort.

The country is trying to end a 44-year Olympic drought and a huge opportunity is presented. There is no room to waste such golden chance.