Gilas Pilipinas starts their 2017 FIBA Asia Cup campaign on Wednesday against defending champions China. It will be the rematch of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship when China triumphed over the Philippines. The game between Gilas Pilipinas and China is a must-watch for all the basketball lovers out there.
Group B of the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup is being called the “Group of Death” because it is composed of Gilas Pilipinas, China, Iraq, and Qatar. All teams need at least one win in order to qualify for the home and away tournament qualifiers later this November. The group phase is only composed of three games and the top three teams in the standings are going to move on to the knockout rounds.
The 2017 FIBA Asia Cup is a 16-man tournament that will determine the champion of the region heading into the World Cup qualifiers. Besides Gilas Pilipinas, China, Iraq, and Qatar, other teams in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup include Australia, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Lebanon, New Zealand and Syria.
Gilas Pilipinas is going to be without naturalized center Andray Blatche, who offered no clear explanation why he will skip the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup. Blatche will be replaced on the roster by Christian Standhardinger. Gilas Pilipinas is also going to miss June Mar Fajardo after he suffered an injury last week but he will stay on the roster.
Despite the absence of Andray Blatche and the health of June Mar Fajardo, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes posted on his Twitter (h/t SPIN.ph) that they have the heart to make up for the loss of both Blatche and Fajardo. Reyes told the Philippine Star that they are going to focus on “attacking the zone” defense.
“We’ve got to get used to attacking the zone. But these guys don’t normally face the zone in their careers in the PBA and all that. We’ve got to make sure the evolution of offense gets to that zone part already because that problem we had in the Jones Cup.”
Gilas Pilipinas will have an 11-man roster with Fajardo still questionable for the rest of the tournament. The Philippines are going to be led by veterans Jayson William, Gabe Norwood, and Japeth Aguilar along with fan favorites Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva.
On the other hand, China will not be sending their best players to the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup. According to Noel Zarate of Sports 5, the Chinese are not focused on winning the FIBA Asia Cup but the 2019 FIBA World Cup. China automatically qualified for the 2019 FIBA World Cup when they became the tournament’s hosts.
Gilas Pilipinas does not need to worry about players such as Yi Jianlian and Zhou Qi, but they still have their hands full against China’s B-Team. Guo Ailun, Zhou Peng, Li Gen, and Li Muhao, members of the Rio Olympics roster, are part of the squad for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.
The 2017 FIBA Asia Cup will be held in Beirut, Lebanon, at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex from August 8 to 20. Gilas Pilipinas vs. China is one of the most anticipated matchups of the tournament. The game starts at 3:30 a.m. PST, 6:30 a.m. EST and 1:30 p.m. local time in Lebanon. Fans can also watch the game via live stream on Sports 5 Live and Live Basketball TV.
[Featured Image by Miguel Angel Morenatti/AP Images]