SMART Gilas-Pilipinas did just enough to survive a bad game against Chinese-Taipei and advance to the semifinals of the Fiba Asia Cup championship in Tokyo, Japan.
Hopefully, nothing of the sort happens when the Nationals play Iran in the semis Friday at the Ota gymnasium - or else coach Chot Reyes warned his team won't stand a chance against Samad Bahrami and the two-time Fiba-Asia Men’s basketball champions.
“We can’t beat Iran playing the way we did today,” said Reyes in his post-game interview following the 75-66 win over Chinese-Taipei in the quarterfinals of the tournament Thursday.
“We need to play 10 times better.”
To their credit, the Nationals beat the Iranians, 77-75, on their way to winning the 34th William Jones Cup basketball tournament last month. A loss Bahrami later blamed on bad officiating as he insisted, “the winner of this game was not true.”
Iran is the only undefeated team so far in this tournament, where the top three finishers get outright berths to the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship For Men in Lebanon next year. The Iranians hardly broke a sweat in their 79-37 blowout of Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals.
Reyes thought the two-day break affected Smart Gilas’ momentum and readiness – both physical and mental – going to the knockout stage. The Nationals had won their last three games in the preliminaries after losing in the opener against China.
But Reyes in now hoping the win over Chinese-Taipei will perk up the Nationals again as they try to surpass the fourth-place finish of their predecessors in this same cagefest two years ago in Lebanon.
The game between Smart Gilas and Iran is all the more going to be hyped following the shocking ousters of deposed champion Lebanon and China.
The Lebanese fell prey against Qatar, 72-79, while the Chinese were stunned by Japan, 50-60.
“Hopefully, this win takes (our game) upward, especially against Iran,” Reyes said.