The Gilas 'kids' are all right

Rick Olivares

Posted at Aug 31 2015 11:00 AM | Updated as of Aug 31 2015 07:08 PM

Pardon cribbing the title classic song from The Who but it is most apt.

The 77-69 win by the Philippines over Taiwan to open their William Jones Cup campaign is massive.

Why? Because this is a team in transition. It wasn’t pretty but there are seldom pretty games. You do not learn much from blowouts. Games like Taiwan are where teams learn and build character. You hear coaches and players say that a lot but it is what it is. And teams, especially one that is undergoing manpower changes, need to play in big games. Forget the losses in their exhibition games. You’d rather lose those than the ones that really count.

And you have to give credit to Taiwan -- they’ve got a good team. They aren’t the most athletic but they’re good.

Here are my first-game impressions:

1. The 'kids' stood tall

Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva literally made massive impacts.

Terrence finished with a team-high 18 points, two rebounds, and three steals. Abueva, on the other hand, finished with 15 points, five rebounds, one assist and one block that went uncredited. We had some bad calls and we were even robbed of some stats.

Both provided hustle, firepower, and swagger. As I tweeted, Taiwan and everyone else have not seen anyone like Calvin -- small by international standards but terrible in more ways than one. I love the swagger. That tip of his away from the basket — that was sweet. The sort of playground move that he perfected as a youngster in Pampanga.

I’ll say this though for Calvin -- when he gets that ball you can’t wait to see what he will do with it. That’s a compliment that I reserve for the likes of Jayson Castro. What a talent.

Moala Tautuaa had a creditable outing. He was obviously getting his baptism of fire in a competition like this and he will no doubt perform better. Some of the fouls called against him are at most contestable. But that is international basketball for you. Tautuaa finished with four points and nine rebounds.

The Philippines races to a 47-31 halftime lead with their offense and defense clicking. Taiwan responded in the third period by being aggressive and with Quincy Davis owning the lane. They levelled the count at 54-all that had their crowd rocking. Now this is what I liked the best — the Filipinos' response to the rally with Abueva and Romeo attacking the basket and big shots by Jayson Castro.

Grade: A

2. The best point guard in Asia lived up to his billing

Sixteen points, three rebounds, three assists, and five steals. None bigger than snatching away Taiwan’s last-gasp attempt to tie the match in the endgame.

He was solid and it was his frenetic pace (along with Abueva) in the second period that gave the Philippines its lead. His ability to get in the lane poses so many problems for the opposition as he creates space and defensive switches.

When he returned to the fray after Taiwan’s comeback, he wasn’t able to get a handle on the game but he eventually did.

Grade: B

3. The bigs performed creditably

You can look at this two ways — our bigs aren’t big enough and they performed well given the circumstances. Tautuaa and Asi Taulava fouled out. Marc Pingris and Sonny Thoss were in foul trouble. But the four collectively hauled down 26 of the team’s 44 rebounds; the same number as Taiwan yet they didn’t lose anyone to fouls.

On the offensive end, they were a little wanting but the international game has always favored the wingmen and guards. Nevertheless, if they can a little more they’d also ease the pressure on the guards.

Grade: C

4. The offense won this game

The offense was great in the even number periods and I thought this was what won the game more than the defense. Sure, there were three huge steals in the endgame but it was the willingness to attack in the interior again and be aggressive that helped swing the momentum back in the Philippines’ favor.

However, during that third quarter Taiwan blitz, the nationals mysteriously settled for going one-on-one and taking outside shots.

Grade: B-

5. The defense was on and off but it showed up in the endgame

We were even on rebounds with 44 each and in both the offensive and defensive boards categories, 16:16 and 28:28. The Filipinos had a lot of more steals 14:4 and that made the difference especially in the endgame.

Taiwan blocked more shots 4:1 (it should be 4:2) but that’s fine. At least at that point the team was attacking the basket.

Is the lack of ceiling a concern? Yes, it is. But it’s the first game. The team is learning to play together and adjust to new teammates and the inconsistencies of international calls (so what else is new when it is the same domestically).

Grade: C-

Summary

Good effort and fantastic response in a hostile environment. I loved how the team responded to head coach Tab Baldwin’s instructions especially in the endgame. They played smart basketball. Sure we lost our heads for a mad 10 minutes but that happens. In the end, its still a satisfying win.

Good job, team!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.