GILAS Pilipinas' defense was left wanting after it had to hold off a shorthanded NLEX side, 95-87, on Saturday morning in their final tune-up game before the first game of the 2019 Fiba World Cup qualifiers against Japan on Friday in Tokyo.
Coming off an expected 96-75 blowout of depleted Rain or Shine last Thursday, the Filipino dribblers were made to sweat by a Road Warriors team whose top playmakers, Kevin Alas and Kiefer Ravena, played for Gilas. NLEX also missed some big men.
That left national coach Gilas coach Chot Reyes a bit concerned following their three-game tune-up series, the first against Alab Pilipinas that resulted in a five-point loss.
“Masama depensa namin,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes said after the sendoff lunch hosted by Chooks to Go on Saturday. “Kulang-kulang yung Rain or Shine. Even kanina, wala naman si Asi, si Al-Hussaini, at si Larry Fonacier, and still, we had problems stopping them, so our defense right now is really a concern.”
Troy Rosario paced the offense for the second straight game in another balanced scoring effort, but it was indeed their defense that is a cause for concern.
Gilas allowed the Road Warriors to engage in a nip-and-tuck battle in the third quarter that saw six lead changes, before the national team built a 12-point, 82-70 lead halfway through the fourth quarter after back-to-back long jumpers by Carl Bryan Cruz.
Gilas saw the Road Warriors make a comeback, pulling to within 91-87, before finally securing the hard-earned win.
The Filipino dribblers will only have practice sessions, including two on Sunday to accommodate the arriving Andray Blatche, before they leave for Japan on Tuesday.