CHANGSHA, China — Gilas Pilipinas survived some bad shooting and spotty defending to squeak past Japan, 73-66, on Sunday in the 2015 sFiba Asia Championship at the Changsha Social Work College Gymnasium.
Andray Blatche played through a painful ankle to help Gilas Pilipinas recover from an early twin-digit deficit to get their second-round campaign going and somehow create some momentum heading to their all-important showdown with unbeaten titleholder Iran.
The finalists of the 2013 Fiba Asia meet in Manila face off at 11:45 a.m. on Monday.
Blatche hurt his right ankle in the second quarter while trying to force his way through the Japan defense and seemed to aggravate it still eight minutes remaining in the third. But he bravely fought on and despite a limp, still managed to lead all scorers with 18 points.
Slow to react to Japan’s plays, Gilas Pilipinas fell behind 19-29 in the second before Jayson Castro, as usual, sparked a rally capped by a Terrence Romeo basket before halftime that put the Philippines ahead 35-33.
Gilas Pilipinas was never in full control, however, failing to put away early the same team it beat by double digits just a few weeks ago in the Jones Cup.
"It was everything we expected it to be today. It was a very tough game. Japan is getting better every year," said Gilas coach Tab Baldwin.
Makoto Hiejima scored 17 points for Japan.
With Blatche hurt, Japan matched the Philippines' points in the paint at 28.
Gilas Pilipinas 73 – Blatche 18, De Ocampo 13, Castro 12, Romeo 12, Abueva 10, Norwood 3, Thoss 3, Hontiveros 2, Taulava 0, Pingris 0, Ganuelas 0.
Japan 66 – Hiejima 17, Takeuchi 13, Ono 9, Furukawa 7, Hashimoto 6, Tanaka 6, Tabuse 4, Ota 2, Arao 2, Matsui 0, Hirose 0.
Quarterscores: 14-18; 35-33; 54-46; 73-66.