Photo from FIBA.COM
By: Bong Paredes
Yesterday, I tweeted that Kai Sotto would run circles around Argentine big man Francisco Caffaro. While Kai statistically had better numbers across the board, Caffaro set the tone of the game from the very beginning. Caffaro was very aggressive and took the action to Kai. He used his heft and strength to get the jump on Sotto as he scored the first 6 points for Argentina. Our Gilas boys played catch-up from that point on.
Losing by only 5 points (77-72) suggests that it was a closely fought game. In reality though, it wasn’t as close as it seemed. Argentina created an early 18-9 cushion at the opening canto and they dictated the pace and tempo. Gilas made several runs throughout the game but came up short every time. Thanks in large part to Argentina’s dynamic offense and their ability to take better care of the ball.
To set expectations, this blog will be Batang Gilas centric and less of a scouting report format that expounds on specific strategies against a specific team (like Russia which we’ll play next). Now that it’s out of the way, here are the top 3 things that led to our loss against Argentina:
- Lack of strong point guard play
- For a country that churns out elite point guards on a regular basis, it seemed like we don’t have one on this squad. At least for the first two games that is. Our starting point guard Gerry Abadiano is as tough as they come. Box score suggests that he takes care of the ball since he only had 1 turnover. If you look at it closely though, he hasn’t shown the ability to break down the defense to create for his teammates at this level. He also hangs on to the ball too long that it leads to a lot of late shot clock attempts out of a broken play.
The length and speed of opposing guards really gave him fits so he wasn’t able to get his teammates in the right scoring positions. As a result, a guy like Carl Tamayo often found himself in the perimeter, forced to make a decision with the ball with the shot clock winding down. Hence his 6 turnovers. Abadiano is also a sub-par defender and if a point guard cannot keep up or contain his counterpart, then it would lead to a lot of defensive breakdowns. You can see some of it on the highlight reel of the game from FIBA’s Youtube page:
Dalph Panopio, aside from his transition three pointer was once again a non-factor. Argentina had some unforced errors and finished the game with only 10 turnovers. We doubled that output and ended with 20, which transitions to my second point which is…
- Poor Transition Defense
- The Argentines outscored us 27-16 on points off turnovers and 14-8 on fast break points. Cut each of those deficits in half and we would have won the game. Did our boys slack off on defense? Far from it! They were sprinting every time Argentina ran. The reason we weren’t able to contain them was our inability to maintain “defensive balance” when we were on offense.
What do I mean by defensive balance, you ask? Defensive balance is part of spacing. It has a two pronged purpose. The first one is to provide pressure release when the man with the ball picks up his dribble by being “behind” the level of the ball so the offense can re-start and recalibrate. The second purpose is to make sure that there is at least one player that can get in front of the ball to contain the opposing team’s transition attack should your team turn the ball over.
We failed to do that all game today and we paid for it.
- Poor shot selection
- We made only 26% from beyond the arc. Not a good percentage at all. What made it worse was the fact that most of the three pointers that we took were ill advised. Either it was too early in the shot clock or too late. Very few were taken in the flow of the offense. As a matter of fact, we missed all 7 attempts from three in the second quarter.
Where we took the threes also played into the spacing situation. Our boys had a hard time getting to their spots because they did not utilize the entire floor. Our attack almost always started and ended at the top of the key and the wings. The length of the Argentines and our poor spacing allowed each of their players to guard 2 players at the same time. Had we tried a few more ball reversals and looked at the corner three (which is much closer than any 3-point spot on the floor), we would have made more three pointers and more entry options to give the ball to Kai down low.
Not all is lost though. All things considered, the boys accounted well for themselves with what they had to work with. We lost by only 5 and Kai Sotto didn’t even play well regardless of what his stat line says (okay he had 6 blocks! Fine!). James Spencer was a bright spot as he went 3/5 from beyond the arc (60%) and played hard-nosed defense.
The real revelation though was Dave Ildefonso. Not that it was so surprising because we all knew that he was a good player coming in. I did not expect him to be this good at this level this early though. Dave scored 22 points while shooting 53% from the field and 50% on threes. He also corralled 10 rebounds (2 more than 7-2 Kai Sotto) while keeping us within striking distance whenever it looked like Argentina was about to blow the game wide open.
Can this team pull an upset against Russia? I don’t like our chances but I will never count this team out. I’m proud of these boys and I already feel sorry for the players and teams that will have to contend with them in their respective leagues when they return from this experience.