CHINESE-Taipei has never beaten the Philippines since the birth of the Smart Gilas program, but there’s a reason why Chot Reyes is not letting his guard down ahead of their quarterfinal showdown on Thursday in the Fiba Asia Cup.
“This is the strongest Taiwanese team I’ve seen,” the Smart Gilas coach said. “They have good shooters and good big men. They’re dangerous.”
That should be enough warning to get the Nationals back on their feet and working hard in practice after a day of rest, shopping, and a little sightseeing in Tokyo.
The last time they met, Smart Gilas 2.0 held off the Taiwanese, 76-72, a month ago before a raucous home crowd in Taipei, but Gabe Norwood came away from that game impressed with the way their opponent played.
“They’re quick and they move around a lot,” Norwood said. “And they have big guys who really can play. They’re going to be a dangerous opponent for us and we have to come out and play our best.”
That Taipei team is expected to once again lean on Tien Lei, the former Dallas Mavericks invitee whose alley-oop dunk on Tuesday gave the Taiwanese a 75-73 win over Qatar and the No. 3 seeding in Group B.
However, Jones Cup hero LA Tenorio believes that as good as the Taiwanese are, Gilas still has the edge over them because of one factor – Marcus Douthit.
“They’re a dangerous opponent, but I think we can handle them because they have no one who can stop Marcus,” said the heady Ginebra guard.
Tenorio should by now be a marked man among the Taipei players. He torched the Taiwanese with 11 points, all coming in the final quarter, to start a hot streak that ended with him holding the tournament MVP award.
The winner of the 2 p.m. game will most likely meet Iran and its top star Samad Bahrami, in the Final Four. The Group B topnotcher battles minnow Uzbekistan in one of the quarterfinal games beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Lebanon, the top seed in Group A, takes on Qatar while second-seeded Japan hopes to take advantage of its hometown crowd when it faces China’s ‘B’ team, the third-seed in Group A, in the nightcap at 7 p.m.