GILAS Pilipinas faces an acid test in Wellington team of New Zealand as the MVP Cup resumes Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The National dribblers survived the Saints, 92-88, in overtime when they faced each other in the 37th Jones Cup last week, although the Kiwis were without center Jameel Watkins and point guard Kevin Braswell.
The 6-foot-11 Watkins and Braswell, the playing-coach, suited up for the NZ club side in its opening game Friday and posted solid numbers against Chinese Taipei.
Watkins, the former PBA import, tallied 14 points and 13 boards in 20 minutes, while Braswell had an all-around game of eight points, 11 assists, four boards, and three steals.
National coach Tab Baldwin believes this Saints team will somewhat mirror the Filipinos’ continental rivals Iran and China, tall teams they will be facing in the Fiba Asia Championship two weeks from now.
“This is a team that simulates Iran and China a little bit because of their size and skilled point guard,” Baldwin said after Gilas’ 93-77 win over Talk ‘N Text also on Friday. “It’s the kind of test we want for those kinds of games.”
Gilas had to climb out of an early 16-point hole before defeating the Saints in the extra period of their Jones Cup showdown.
“That experience was good for us, but we don’t want to do it again,” Baldwin said.
“I think New Zealand wants to win the tournament, so we should get a tough contest from them (Saturday) night,” he added.
Braswell expects the same from a Gilas side that he feels has depth at all positions.
“It’s hard to scout them to be honest,” the 36-year-old playing-coach said. “It’s hard to scout a team that has talent at every position like that.”