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    CHEMISTRY, Rajko Toroman believes, is the biggest difference of the Gilas Pilipinas team that faced Serbia on Thursday morning in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament to the squad that competed against the same squad, though different players, in the Fiba Basketball World Cup in 2019.

    The former Gilas mentor pinpointed the team’s chemistry as one of the reasons why the Philippines nearly pulled an upset against Serbia, ranked No. 5 in the world and aiming to return to the Olympics after a silver medal finish in Rio De Janeiro.

    That quality was what was perhaps missing during the last time Serbia faced Gilas Pilipinas when it lost by 59 points in the World Cup in China two years ago.

    “It’s totally a different game than they were in the World Cup,” said Toroman to SPIN Zoom In hours after Serbia escaped with an 83-76 victory over Gilas on Thursday. “Because in the World Cup, maybe Filipinos had a better ranking player but they didn’t have chemistry. Now, they have chemistry.”

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    Toroman said the chemistry was especially evident in the current Gilas naturalized player in Ange Kouame, who thrived with his teammates around him.

    “They have different type of naturalized player. Blatche is by far a better player than Kouame but sometimes, the chemistry in the team is better with Kouame or with someone,” said Toroman.

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    Chemistry absent for Serbia side

    Ironically, it’s also chemistry, or the lack thereof, that resulted to Serbia almost being upset by the Philippine side on Thursday, Toroman believes.

    Toroman bared that some members of the Serbian team had little time to join in the training for the OQT, perhaps because of other commitments as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. The Serbian coach, however, said that is not an excuse as the team always has to prove that they are one of the top basketball teams in the world.

    “I think that the Philippine team had a long time together. That’s one of the reasons why they played like this. They are together and they are practicing all the time,” said Toroman.

    As for Serbia, Toroman said: “Some of the guys like Teodosic and Micic came three days before the game. I think this team didn’t have enough practice and enough chemistry and that’s the difference in the World Cup. For the World Cup, preparation was one and a half months. Now, the preparation was very short. Three or four guys came from a vacation, just three practices, and play.”

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    “But that’s not an excuse for Serbia. Serbia is one of the best basketball countries in the world and Serbia have to prove each game – with practice, without practice, with Bogdanovic, without Bogdanovic, or with Jokic. Serbia cannot allow this kind of game. It’s a big disappointment like I said in Serbia,” Toroman added.

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      Despite the absence of practice time, Toroman said he is sure that Serbia was able to scout the Philippines and didn’t took the team lightly.

      “I’m sure that they scouted because of course, they were watching the games from Manila. I’m sure. They have three guys who are taking care of the scouting. They are very professional. I don’t think they will go into the game thinking ‘Hey, we will beat these guys by 50 points, we don’t need the scouring.’ They don’t work like that,” Toroman said.

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