GILAS Pilipinas may have virtually secured the title, but that won’t mean it will pull its punches against Chinese Taipei as the MVP Cup comes to a close on Sunday afternoon at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
After surviving New Zealand’s Wellington, 84-81, on Saturday to essentially capture the crown, the Nationals gun for a sweep of the four-team pocket tournament at 5 p.m. against the winless Taiwanese.
A Gilas loss and a win by the Saints against Talk ‘N Text will put both teams even, but the Filipinos will still have the edge owing to the winner-over-the-other rule.
“In all honesty, that’s the game that we need to take lessons from because they’re our Asian opponent,” said national coach Tab Baldwin, whose squad is bracketed in the Fiba Asia Championship in Group B with Palestine, Kuwait, and Hong Kong.
Baldwin remains wary of the Taiwanese, a possible opponent in Fiba Asia in China later this month.
“They have the talent to do that (prevent Gilas sweep),” the American-Kiwi mentor said. “It seems to me they’ve been rotating players and maybe even resting a little bit.”
“But they came here to play us,” he was quick to add of the Taiwanese, who lost to Gilas, 77-69, in the Jones Cup on their home court. “They came here for that lesson.”
With both squads expected to go all out, Baldwin has also requested fans to do the same.
“I’m calling for the stadium to be full,” he said. “I want all the Filipino fans there. I want them waiting in queues outside to get tickets.”
“This team deserves that and they will feel better going to China if they get that,” Baldwin added as his team goes to Cebu for a final training camp next week. “It’s the last chance they’re going to have to support this team in the country.”