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    Gilas gets best shot at Fiba World Cup breakthrough against injury-hit Puerto Rico

    Sep 2, 2014

    SEVILLE, SPAIN - Gilas Pilipinas resumes its campaign in the 2014 World Cup on Wednesday, needing a win against Puerto Rico and an assist from the very same team that denied it a famous victory two days earlier to have any hope of reaching the knockout phase.

    The Filipinos lost games against world No. 16 Croatia, No. 5 Greece and No. 3 Argentina by a combined margin of just 6.33 points, coming within a possession or two of stealing a victory in a performance that has earned them respect in the eyes of the basketball world.

    However, 'almost' won't quite cut it this time in the 1:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m., Manila time) match against an injury-hit Puerto Rican side which like Gilas is fighting for dear life in this quadrennial event featuring 24 of the best basketball-playing nations in the planet.

    Tied at 0-3 (win-loss) with Puerto Rico, Gilas must not only win but also hope that Argentina - the same team that dealt it a heartbreaking 81-85 loss on Monday night - beat 2-1 Senegal to keep its flickering hopes alive.

    [See 'Go home' taunt from Senegal camp gives MVP all the more reason to want a victory]

    Granting things fall into place on Wednesday, the Filipinos can punch an unlikely ticket to the second round if they beat Senegal at the close of Group B action on Thursday since the quotient system will come into play in the event the two teams end up tied at 2-3.

    That, coach Chot Reyes said, is exactly what Gilas will be aiming for.

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    "Go all out for a win," Reyes said when asked what if anything has changed for Gilas after the loss to Argentina. "There's no such thing as halfway for us. We want to go all out. Every game, every possession, we just go all out."

    The Gilas coach said the team has everything to play for at this point.

    "It's still wide open ... If we win our next two games, we can get there," he said. "And hopefully we find it in our next games."

    [See Norman Black says he has a feeling Gilas 'on verge of a breakthrough']

    Their biggest chance should come against Puerto Rico, which showed up with just 10 players in uniform on Monday night in a 79-90 loss to Greece due to injuries sustained by NBA veteran Carlos Arroyo and fellow starter Angel Vassallo the day before.

    Arroyo and Vassallo have had three days to get fit for the must-win game against Gilas, although a check done by Spin.ph at the official tournament hotel showed Arroyo still didn't join Puerto Rico's practice in the lone rest day on Tuesday.

    Putting an interesting sub-plot to the game is the presence in the Puerto Rican lineup of Renaldo Balkman, who cross paths with Gilas just a year after being banned from the PBA last year due to a choking incident with Petron teammate Arwind Santos.

    [See No hard feelings for Balkman over PBA life ban: 'I love the Philippines]

    Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico match will be the second-to-the-last game as a Gilas player for Jimmy Alapag, who was the man of the hour in the gallant stand against Argentina on Monday and is now looking to replicate the performance against Balkman and Co.

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    Is there anything left in the tank, the 'Mighty Mouse' was asked.

    "Hopefully two more of this," he said, pertaining to his 15-point performance against Argentina.

    "We have two more games left and it is important that we rest our minds, our body and get ready for those games. Anything can still happen."

    [See Alapag refuses to reconsider retirement plan after heroic game against Argentina]

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