TAIPEI - From the eight games Gilas Pilipinas played in the 37th Jones Cup, one lingered in Tab Baldwin's mind as the national team took the short plane ride back to Manila on Monday morning.
A 75-64 defeat to Iran last week is understandably eating up Baldwin. So much so that the national coach said he will use that game as a 'benchmark' as Gilas enters the crucial final two weeks of its preparation for the Fiba Asia Championship in Changsha, China.
"That game will feature a lot in our week of preparations," said Baldwin after Gilas wrapped up its Jones Cup campaign with a 96-67 romp over Chinese-Taipei B to finish second behind, you guessed it, Hamed Haddadi and Iran.
Baldwin knows this Gilas batch will have to figure out a way to get past the 7-2 Haddadi, wily guard Mahdi Kamrani and top gunner Samad Bahrani if it hopes to have a shot at bagging the lone Olympic Games spot alloted for Asia in the China tournament that will run from September 23 to October 3.
Their meeting in the Jones Cup showed Baldwin that Gilas has a long way to go to doing that.
Although the score was close, the American-New Zealander admitted Gilas struggled to crack Iran's defense behind the offensive sets it tried in the Jones Cup while its thin frontline couldn't stop Haddadi from getting away with his 22 points and 12 rebounds.
"Their defense is so tough," said Baldwin, who shuffled Asi Taulava, Moala Tautuaa and Sonny Thoss against the former NBA player. "We had trouble scoring with what we were running and how we were running it."
That's the reason Baldwin is dedicating the final week of Gilas' preparation to revisit those offensive sets as the team goes into 'seclusion.'
"There were lessons in that game and we will use that game as a kind of a benchmark and will use some of the tactics that we need to use against Iran during the week of preparations," Baldwin said.
Gilas can at least count on Andray Blatche to rejoin the team by the time the two teams meet again in the Fiba Asia, but Baldwin is not one to pin too much hope on the former NBA player.
The locals will have to do their part, he said.
"But of course, Andray is such a great talent for us that we desire him to be there. But by bringing him in, it doesn’t mean that everybody steps back," said the coach who led New Zealand to the semifinals of the 2002 Fiba world championships (now World Cup) in Indianapolis.
"Now we have to integrate Andray together (with the locals). It’s not an Andray show and he knows that, probably more than anybody else."
In the meantime, Gilas is set to take Tuesday off before returning to practice the next day to prepare for the MVP Cup, another tune-up tournament where the team will play games against Chinese-Taipei and the New Zealand Saints - two sides it beat in the Jones Cup - and Talk 'N Text.