CHANGSA, China – Its game against Hong Kong is not coach Tab Baldwin’s initial concern. It’s how to boost the team’s morale is what matters to him now.
“I have to pick these guys up,” he said in the wake of the national team’s 75-73 loss to Palestine in the Fiba Asia Championship opener on Wednesday.
The Filipinos led by as many as 28-12 early in the second quarter, but missed shots and crucial turnovers down the stretch hurt allowed the Palestinians to turn the table around against their fancied foes.
Although Baldwin was quick to praise Palestine, which road on the hot-shooting hands of Jamal Abu Shamala and Sani Sakakini, he implied it’s actually more of Gilas losing the game than the Palestinians winning it.
“Rightfully so we’re embarrassed, and that’s not easy to pick up guys for,” he said. “We’re all embarrassed and we should. A lot of credit (goes) to Palestine for what they did.”
Big man Andray Blatche was obviously disappointed with the loss that he went straight to the team dugout and did not join the rest of the team when it huddled in center court shortly after the game.
"We have to take this on the chin," said Baldwin. "We cannot hang our heads. There’s too much tournament left to play. We feel bad, mostly for all the people in the Philippines that we felt we let down today. But we will be back to fight."
Being in a group (B) which many considers as the weakest of the four in which 16 teams are divided, Baldwin recalled having talked to Gilas in length about being the favorites and being underdogs.
“When you’re in the role of the favorites, you’ve got have a dominant personality,” he said.
Unfortunately, Gilas wasn’t exactly like that, at least for the last few minutes of the game.