GILAS Pilipinas is leaving nothing to chance especially against a team whose back is against the wall.
Coach Chot Reyes considers a winless Japan side doubly dangerous going to their second meeting in the second window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Japanese were ambushed at home by Chinese Taipei, 70-69, on Thursday to keep them winless in three outings and at the bottom of Group B in the home-and-away tournament.
But for Reyes, that just made the Japanese team hungrier to win especially in enemy territory on Sunday
“They’re in a situation where their back is against the wall, and you have a funny way of getting your focus sharp because your back is against the wall,” said Reyes at the end of Gilas practice Saturday at the MOA Arena.
“You have no room for error so that’s always a dangerous opponent.”
Gilas beat Japan at home at the start of the qualifiers last November, 77-71, but as Reyes pointed out, that team was different from the one the Filipinos will be facing this time.
“They have a new lineup. They’ve got new players, (Naoto) Tsuji, and a couple more,” noted the Gilas mentor.
“Japan is dangerous as it is, and because of the stakes, I think they’re doubly dangerous,” he added. “That’s why it’s incumbent upon us to bring in our best game (tomorrow).”
Gilas suffered an 84-68 loss to Australia, its first in the meet to remain in second place with a 2-1 record behind the unbeaten Boomers (3-0).
Reyes said it’s going to be a grind-out duel whenever two teams coming off a loss tangle against each other.
“It’s an interesting battle. One team is fighting for its life, and another team is fighting to stay alive and advance. In that sense, it’s a 50-50 situation,” said Reyes, who welcomes back top gunner Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario, and Jio Jalalon in the team’s 12-man roster in lieu of Kevin Alas, Abu Tratter, and Carl Bryan Cruz.
But the good thing about it, Reyes said Gilas will have the benefit of the home crowd cheering for the team.
“I like the fact that we’re playing at home. And I’ve said it before, in the fatigue department, we are more worn down than them because we played the tougher opponent and we came from a much longer trip, almost three times longer than the trip they had to take it here,” stressed the veteran coach.
“That’s why we’re banking on the crowd. Hopefully the home town crowd will give us a lift, our sixth man gives us that adrenalin shot to still compete with Japan.”