MANILA, Philippines — For Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes, the team's 107-point beatdown of Myanmar in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship showed that his players respected their opponents and played the right way.
Matched up against a team that is not even ranked by FIBA, Gilas Pilipinas ran out to a 17-0 lead, broke the century mark in the third quarter, and wound up with a 147-40 victory on Friday at Araneta Coliseum.
The Philippines showed no mercy against its opponents, which Reyes took as a positive sign as well as a show of respect to the other squad.
"We told the players that a lot of times in international competition, tayo ang dehado. It's very rare na we come to a game na tayo ang lyamado. So could we play with the same kind of intensity and effort, even if we are the favored team?" he asked.
"That was the question we posed before the players before the game. As far as we're concerned, we just want to make sure that we are coming out and playing the game the right way," he said.
Gilas Pilipinas led 66-12 at halftime and never took its foot off the gas, running out in transition in the third quarter before finding its range from beyond the arc in the fourth. Gilas allowed Myanmar a total of 15 field goals in the game.
That they continued to play stout defense and run their offensive sets even late in the game, when the score was overwhelmingly in their favor, showed that the Gilas players respected both Myanmar and the game of basketball itself, said Reyes.
"It is a very fine line," he conceded. "Kung magbaboy naman kami — if we don't defend them, let them (take) lay-ups, and if we don't take shots or take haphazard shots and make haphazard plays, then that's a bigger sign of disrespect, not only for the opponent, but for the game."
"We talk a lot about winning the right way, playing the game the right way, and you know, I'm sure that even for Myanmar, they wouldn't want it any other way," Reyes said.
Moreover, Reyes pointed out that, for most of its experience in international basketball, Gilas Pilipinas has been on the receiving end of these kinds of blowouts. The coach specifically remembers tune-up games leading up to the 2014 FIBA World Cup, when the Philippines lost by big margins against higher-ranked squads.
"We've been on the other end of the stick, so we know how it feels," he says. "And even when we were a lot smaller, and a lot less talented than the other teams, we never expected them to take it easy on us, because it's basketball."
His players have clearly bought into Reyes' mindset. Calvin Abueva had been wary about playing lower-ranked teams, saying that underestimating them will lead them into trouble. After the win over Myanmar, he doubled down on his stand.
"Kapag andoon tayo sa ibang lugar, parang ina-underestimate tayo, na ganito tayo kahita. Pero sa sobrang underestimate nila, nabubulag sila, 'di ba?" he said. "Like noong kalaban against Senegal 'yung kay Coach Chot, 'di nila alam na ganoon pala 'yung comeback ng Gilas."
"Dito, sinasabi nila na overkill, pero actually, hindi naman. Nilalabas lang namin 'yung laro namin, na nandito tayo sa lugar natin," he added.
[When we're in other countries, they underestimate us, like Senegal did in the World Cup. They don't know what we're capable of. Now, they say this team is overkill, but that's not true. We're just showing what we're capable of.]
Allein Maliksi agreed. "Ang mindset is, when you smell blood, you go for the kill. Mahina na nga, tapos lalaruin mo pa?" he said. " 'Di naman sa ina-underestimate natin, kasi siyempre alam natin na kayang-kaya. Pero bakit mo pagbibigyan 'yung kalaban?"
[The mindset is, when you smell blood, you go for the kill. It's not that we're underestimating our opponent, but since we already know we can beat them, why should we give them a chance?]
However, Reyes doesn't expect the rest of the tournament to be easy.
"I think, if we start to have any unrealistic expectations, that's the time we set ourselves up for trouble. We don't expect this kind of result at all," he said. "We expect to encounter a lot stiffer and a lot tougher competition."
Gilas returns to action on Saturday against Singapore.
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