Ang sakit ‘nun, chong. 

No matter how many tweets I see saying “We lost by JUST NINE POINTS” to the fifth-ranked team in the world, I still can’t find it in myself to be content.

Sayang yun.

We were right there, up in France’s grill. In theory, we weren’t supposed to be right there with France. We were supposed to bow down to the glory of the Frenchmen and simply bask in their glory. But that wasn’t the case, as we put up one big fight against Les Bleus. Sadly, it just wasn’t enough.

Almost is never enough.

For my preview of the Gilas-France match over at SLAM Philippines, I mentioned that Gilas had to play its best if they wanted to have a chance to win against the Vincent Collet-helmed squad. That meant making three-point baskets, and playing disciplined basketball, according to what Coach Tab Baldwin wanted them to do.

When it came to making our triples, Gilas shot 11-of-28 against France, which is a respectable mark. You could give Gilas a check mark in that regard, but at the same time, you almost can’t. Some of the three-pointers Gilas attempted were off poor isolation plays, or were forced shots with the clock winding down. The thing was, we could have just opted to take smarter attempts, but we didn’t.

This brings me to the second thing that we had to do if we wanted to win against France: disciplined basketball.

Disciplined basketball isn’t necessarily playing perfect basketball. Disciplined basketball is something that’s more realistic. It’s making plays that will be for the betterment of the team. It’s cycling through your options, sticking to your plays, and avoiding panic in the face of a deficit or tough D.

It would have been impossible to play perfect basketball against a French team that prides itself on having a swarming defense. Gilas was certainly no stranger to this, as they had trouble executing simple dribble penetration plays that could have gotten them easy baskets. The problem was, instead of trying to fish for fouls inside or moving the ball around, looking for an opening, Gilas opted to go for isolation plays. These were isolation plays which weren’t drawn by design. These were isolation plays that we settled for, and nine out of ten times it ended in disaster. Maybe against FIBA Asia competition we would have been able to pull those plays off, but this isn’t Asian competition any more.

That doesn’t mean that there weren’t moments where Gilas played disciplined ball. In fact, they put their best foot forward during the crucial run they had during their fourth quarter comeback. The team stuck with the dribble penetration that was giving them easy baskets at the hole or beyond the three-point arc. And it nearly worked. All of a sudden, Gilas was within four with time to spare.

Then suddenly, the basket closed up, and France was running the other way, padding their lead back up to double-digits.

Otherwise, it was a good game for Gilas. Sticking to it against a team of France’s caliber should have us excited for future tourneys. This just proves that Gilas does have the capability to make it big on the international stage. We have reason to feel good about ourselves.

At the same time, you can’t help but have some regret with the miscues Gilas had.

Nandun na tayo eh. Kaso nagkulang. 

Let’s just hope that Gilas learns from their miscues, and beats the Tall Blacks to stay in the running for a slot in the semifinals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Aabot din tayo. Matututo rin tayo. Magiging sapat din tayo. Para sa bayan. 

Takeaways from the game

That Troy goooooood.

So you want me out of the Final 12 huh? // Interaksyon

Troy Rosario has often been compared to Ranidel de Ocampo because of his sheer versatility on the offensive end. Against France, people were throwing out proclamations of Rosario as the next Marc Pingris.

RDO and Marc Pingris fused into one? RDO at his prime? Ping if he was two or three inches taller?

Who are we kidding. Troy Rosario is his own man.

Rosario has proven time and again that hard work works. He was relentless in his pursuit of the ball against the French, putting his body on the line against bigger guys like Boris Diaw and Joffrey Lauvergne. Rosario had a grand total of seven offensive rebounds, which was tops in the whole game. If that isn’t a testament to his hustle, I don’t know what is.

Other than his hustle, it was his smarts that impressed me the most. He wasn’t forcing any shots, just attempting the ones that were open for him (okay maybe except for that jumper he attempted during the last two minutes of the game). He was just waiting for the opportunity to strike, and it helped Gilas a lot when it came to the flow of their offense.

Enough with the comparisons to Ranidel and Ping. Troy Rosario is his own man, and we’re just getting started.

Release the Kraken?

We’re going to need the June Mar who turned Gorgui Dieng into a baby if we want to make it to Rio. // AP

June Mar Fajardo is the PBA MVP. No matter how you parse it, being the MVP means that you’re one of the best players in the league. When you think about it, June Mar isn’t just one of the best players in the league, he’s one of the best players in the country, period.

Against France, it just didn’t look that way.

It’s not just the lack of production from June Mar, it was how he looked in the court. He was unusually tentative against the French, seemingly avoiding the ball every time he had the opportunity to be set up for an easy basket down low.

The thing is, Gilas is lacking depth in terms of big men, and quite frankly, June Mar is the only true center that we have in the team. If Gilas wants a chance at making it to Rio, we need a Fajardo that is willing to score some buckets for the team. Coach Tab, by all means, release The Kraken if you have to.

We have the capability of making it big in the international stage.

We’re getting close, Tony. Watch out. // FIBA

It’s time to stop selling ourselves short. We’re not just some small brown men who are up against more athletic competition. These guys are our equals. We can make it big in the international stage.

We have to learn to play disciplined basketball. That doesn’t necessarily mean having to stray away from our #PUSO style of play. We can mix those to to create a death machine that’s going to blow the minds of opposing countries. As evidenced by certain moments in this game, we can play at that high of a level. We just have to believe in ourselves that we can make it to that level.

One step at a time. Maaabot din natin yan.