Philippines’ last game: lost against Iran 81-73

Qatar’s last game: lost against Australia 95-43

Last meeting: 2017 FIBA Asia Cup Classification Round (7-8) Team Pilipinas won 80-74

How does Qatar play?

Photo Credit: FIBA

It’s a bit tricky to describe how Qatar will play seeing as they’re parading a completely new set of players in the second round. In their game against Australia, 8-9 of their players competed for the first time in this tournament. These are the same young guns they used in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. It looks like after a less than stellar performance in the first round, they’ve decided on a completely different direction with this youth movement. Luckily, Tim Lewis is still their head coach so it’s same to assume that they’ll be using the same system just with a set of younger guys.

In watching a few of their games in the first round, against Iran in particular, they play like any “Euro-style” team. They like to run a lot of handoffs and pick-and-rolls, usually with two guys occupying the corners. Their basic play seems to start with one big at the top of the key passing to the wing then transitioning to either a PnR or the big setting a down screen for one of the guys in the corners or both. There seems to be an emphasis on screens and setting up three-point shooters though it hasn’t really paid them dividends with only a 26.8% mark. Like any young team, they do like to push the pace at any opportunity. Defensively, they like to aggressively double the opponent’s PnR ballhandler so that’s something to watch out for.

Overall, they’re not a particularly strong team even when they didn’t go full youth movement. Despite that, there are still a few players the Philippines will have to watch out for.

Who are Qatar’s key players?

Photo Credit: FIBA

These three vets will be the most dangerous as they try to guide a young Qatari squad. In fact, most of their plays are centered on getting these players good looks.

Tanguy Ngombo (vs. AUS: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal): Out is long-time naturalized player Trey Johnson and in comes Ngombo who hails from Congo. Though only his second game in these qualifiers, he’s not a stranger to FIBA tournaments. While Johnson was more of a playmaker and initiator, Ngombo is a full-on scorer. His 36-point effort against Japan in the Asian Games was definitely a highlight. The former NBA second-round pick has the prototypical size and length for an NBA wing. He’s pretty much a threat from anywhere especially when finishing inside the paint because of his heft and long arms. It will be important to limit him to the perimeter.

Khalid Suliman Abdi (7.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1 spg): Another veteran who’s played in most of these qualifiers, he’s a bit of a do-it-all wing. That versatility is what makes him a dangerous opponent. He can lead them in both scoring, in assists and even in rebounding. He’s pretty much their primary playmaker despite being their starting shooting guard. He almost always handles the ball and initiates their plays. He’s tall, lengthy and a bit awkward when moving which can make him tricky to guard. It might be best to force him to just be a passer instead of looking for his shot.

Mohd Yousuf Mohammed (10.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.1 apg): At 35 years old, it doesn’t look like he’s slowed down a ton. I think we can remember him as Qatar’s big bruiser able to bulldoze his way to the rim and was once their leading rebounder. He still does that quite a bit especially as their primary roll man. Nowadays he’s just as adept outside the paint, usually setting up at the top of the key. He’s shown the ability to get hot from there as he hit three triples in a game twice during the first round. He’s also the key to their defense and the reason why they like to aggressively double. He can also use his length to tap balls away.

How can the Philippines counter?

For the Philippines, I think it’s more about building and improving on what they did versus Iran rather than focus on any specific gameplan. For one thing, they have to continue limiting their turnovers and getting back in transition if they do cough up the leather. They can’t encourage the young Qataris to run and score easy points. In addition to that, force them into a halfcourt game. Watch out for their screens and force them to create in isolation, especially when Ngombo and Suliman are on the bench. Luckily, their bigs don’t set bone-crushing screens like Iran so the Philippine guards should find it easier to traverse them. Outside of those two, they don’t have reliable playmakers. It’ll be important to stick to those two and dare their young guns to beat the Philippines.

If there is one single thing Team Pilipinas needs to improve on, it’s their three-point shooting. They simply have to be better. Against Qatar, they should have an easier time. They have to show that they are better than their 17.86% mark against Iran and their 28.5% shooting overall. Even against Iran, they had some good open looks that just didn’t go in. They just have to trust the system and keep generating and taking those open looks.

Who are the Philippines’ key players?

Photo Credit: PBA.ph

Stanley Pringle: As expected, Coach Yeng Guiao will go for Pringle instead of Christian Stanhardinger for that naturalized spot. I would’ve personally stuck with Standhardinger but it’s not hard to see why Pringle was chosen instead. For one thing, it’s a chance for him to show what he can do in his FIBA 5×5 debut. Secondly, he brings stability to that point guard spot. He proved in the Asian Games that he can Yeng Guiao’s system almost perfectly. He’s arguably Team Pilipinas’ best slasher, he can shoot accurately from the corners and is a better defender than Alex Cabagnot and Paul Lee.

Japeth Aguilar (3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and Matthew Wright (6.3 ppg, 1 rpg, 1.5 apg): Having served their one-game suspension, Aguilar and Wright will look to reinforce and bring some more energy to this Philippine squad. Aguilar effectively replaces Raymond Almazan and should provide some length, athleticism and much-needed shot blocking to the big man rotation. Wright meanwhile replaces Maliksi as a gunner off the bench. The problem with Maliksi is that he can’t provide much else if he isn’t taking and making shots. Wright should provide a lot more in the scoring department as well some playmaking, rebounding and better defense. These two haven’t been having the best of tournaments so it’ll be interesting to see what they can provide in a new system under a new coach.

Alex Cabagnot (vs. IRI: 9 points, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block) and Marcio Lassiter (vs. IRI: 4 points, 3 assists, 1 steal): Cabagnot and Lassiter didn’t have great debuts but Yeng Guiao reaffirmed his belief in these two as belonging to the national team. Hopefully, these two Beermen can pay back that confidence with improved play. With more time learning the system and having those first game jitters out of the way, they should play a bit better. Most importantly, they will have to hit those open three-pointers. Hopefully, we can see them do some more work off the ball and coming off screens to get them going. One more thing to look out for is Lassiter’s defense as he will likely take the Suliman assignment. He’ll have to continue his steady play on that end.

Prediction?

As I mentioned a few times, Qatar is one of the worst teams, if not the worst, in this tournament. Despite their losing record and the relative youth of the team, Team Pilipinas cannot be complacent. It was acceptable to lose against a powerhouse like Iran but against these bottom-feeding teams, it is extremely important to secure victories to tighten their hold on that crucial third place in the group rankings. With the improvements to the roster and with a solid game under their belt, I expect the team to easily come out on top by double digits. It might be a bit of the dogfight in the early goings but I think they’ll be able to pull away in the last period. #LabanPilipinas