TAIPEI - The Russians were big, tall and strong and not one to shy away from contact. They in fact made that known as early as the first two minutes, dishing off cheap shots every now and then.
Nice. That's exactly the way Gilas Pilipinas wanted it.
"Sayang nga, e," Marc Pingris, one of the most physical players in the PBA, said a day after sitting out the game against Spartak Primorye under Gilas coach Tab Baldwin's rotation policy. "'Yun pa naman ang mga gusto kong laro."
But those who did get to play never once backed down from the physical, often rough play of the team from Russia's pro league. In fact, guys like Asi Taulava and Calvin Abueva enjoyed themselves.
"They (Russians) played right into our hands," said the veteran Asi Taulava. "They probably thought we'd be scared and cower in fear. They didn't know that's exactly how PBA players like it."
The 42-year-old Taulava was in the mood to mix it up early, after seeing Sonny Thoss bloodied by a Russian elbow and Gilas guard Terrence Romeo get hit in the face by a ball thrown by Spartak tough guy Alimdzhan Fediushin.
Taulava soon was standing up for every Gilas player on the floor and got the last laugh when he wrestled Fediushin to the ground during a rebound scramble.
Before the start of the second half, a 'ceasefire' was called in a meeting between rival coaches.
"I was saying, 'Why did you hit our small guy, come face me,'" said Taulava. "Problem with them (Russians), they know how to dish it out but they don't know how to take it. In the PBA, players know how to dish out and take it.
"By the second half, we were still physical and they no longer liked it."