CHANGSHA, China – It took a 51-point blowout by Gilas Pilipinas of Hong Kong for Andray Blatche to feel good about himself again.
The NBA veteran took the team’s shocking loss to Palestine in the opening of the Fiba Asia Championship seriously that he went straight to the dressing room after the game and was the first player to board the Gilas bus on the way back to the hotel.
But on Thursday, he watched animatedly on the bench in the final half of the fourth quarter as Terrence Romeo and his crew put the finishing touches to a 101-50 demolition of Hong Kong for Gilas’ first win in the Fiba Asia Championship.
The 6-foot-10 naturalized player later joined his teammates at center court as they huddled one last time before proceeding to the locker room.
“I can smile a little bit more now than yesterday,” said Blatche, who only played 17 minutes in the runaway win that saw him finish with 17 points – on 6-of-11 shooting – and eight rebounds in 17 minutes of play.
“We only did two things different from yesterday (against Palestine). We just hit our shots and had some rebounds.”
Statistics will bear Blatche out on this one.
Unlike in Gilas’ 75-73 defeat to the Palestinians, the team shot better at 46 percent from the field (35-of-76) and had more rebounds (62) compared to its game against Hong Kong.
And more importantly, the Filipinos were obviously more focused in this one after getting a wake-up call early in the Olympic qualifying tournament.
“We had our games in our hands. We just didn’t close it,” said Blatche in recalling that harrowing loss against the unranked Palestinians in their Group B match-up on Wednesday.
“We’re not focused. The other team was hungry and they want it more. That’s why they got it.”