Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, August 2, 2013

My thoughts on the Philippines’ match vs. Saudi Arabia

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My thoughts on the Philippines’ match vs. Saudi Arabia
by rick olivares

If you were one of those who caught the China-Korea match that preceded the Philippines-Saudi Arabia tiff, you might have said, ‘Ah, we can play these guys.’

First matches can never be too much of a gauge of a team’s worth. First game jitters. Unfamiliarity with teammates. And there’s more.

Watching the Philippines play Saudi Arabia in last night’s 78-66 win, it was obvious that the home team was much better. But they didn’t play great again for reasons of first game jitters, uptightness, and well, Saudi played good defense too.

But here are my thoughts about the opening match of the Philippines campaign:

We couldn’t get into a rhythm.
The Philippines started out well with an 8-0 blast. Just when it looked liked they’d go on a tear and end this whole this in the first period (ala Iran versus Malaysia in the FIBA Asia opener) Saudi Arabia battled back. They visitors came back by hitting their free throws and three-pointers. They even took the first period, 16-14.

The home side finally put a little distance late in the second period going 35-25 after a bank shot by LA Tenorio but SA had the last word with a triple to cut the lead to seven going into the halftime break.

The biggest lead the Philippines managed was 16 points (that was cut down to 12 in the final second of the match).

The Filipinos had their game faces on. There were no broad smiles or cheers. Even when they blocked shots or made a good play, they remained impassive. As I opined earlier, it must have been a combination of opening day jitters, uptightness from the hype, and not having it.

The nationals acknowledged that it was an ugly game. Head coach Chot Reyes even admitted that they were playing two games as they were trying to manage everyone’s minutes give the play dates against Jordan and Chinese Taipei today and tomorrow respectively.

Having said that, I have a feeling the Philippines will play better today against Jordan.

You have to give Saudi Arabia credit, they played good enough (read: not great but good enough) defense.
In the Philippines’ very first possession, they batted away a pass then nearly stole the ball away. LA Tenorio just hit a three-pointer right before the shot clock buzzer went off.

The Philippines looked like they were going to blow out SA but Jaber Kabe stole the ball from Marcus Douthit, Marc Pingris turned the ball over, then the team got into foul trouble.

Then Marzouq Al Mullawad stole the ball from Jimmy Alapag in the first possession of the RP team in the second period. Marzouq hit only one free throw and the small deficit was quickly overhauled when Jason Castro went in.

They never allowed the Philippines to run too much – only two fastbreak points --and that was one of the highlights where the ball didn’t touch the floor: a forward pass by Jimmy A to Larry F who crossed it to a cutting LA Tenorio for a reverse layup.

The only other highlight (outside of Japeth Aguilar’s blocks and Marc Pingris’ hustle plays) was that Douthit jam.

We played a team that was offensively inept
Saudi Arabia threw up 30 three-point attempts. They hit 10 for 30 points. They also only had eight points in the paint. Even with their big guy Mohammed Al Marawi, he isn’t your classic post up player. He likes to face up and try jumpers.

Playing zone, the three point shot was all we gave them. Al Marawi would go out to the perimeter to draw Douthit out. The problem is they did not have the slashers to carve up the Philippines’ defense. Plus, we have better interior defenders than they do.

They took a lot of uncontested shots because we were also sagging to close down the shaded area. They really couldn’t hit the side of the barn if their lives depended on it. From the moment of the ball’s release, you knew it wasn’t going in as the shot was off or short-armed. If I felt that the home team had their game on collectively, they would have made short work of Saudi Arabia.

Can’t really say we were bad offensively (we shot 42% from the field) but out of rhythm, the Philippines played good enough defense in spurts.

We won the rebounding battle 49-38 and had six blocks to their two, however, we turned the ball over a little more 14-10. Each side collected five points off these TOs.

Can the Philippines play better? Most definitely. I believe that we played down to the level of the competition last night. Against Jordan, we’ll play better (as the latter has a young team and is missing many veteran players; only three out of the 12 suited up in the last FIBA Asia).

Maybe they’ll remain impassive. That’s good. You know they are locked in because every game from hereon is for keeps.

My players for the game for the Philippines: Ranidel De Ocampo and Larry Fonacier.

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