FIBA Asia 2015 Matchup Preview: Gilas Pilipinas Basketball seventh opponent Lebanon national team will be the first of Gilas in the Quarterfinal round this October 1 at Changsha China, FIBA Asia 2015. We take a glimpse at the strengths and weaknesses, and also the star players that Lebanese NT can muster opposite our RP Five.
The Philippines Basketball Team is in a head-on collision with mighty Lebanon five who qualified to the Quarterfinal round after beating a strong Jordan NT. The Cedar squad had a so-so performance in the tourney but still managed to qualify for the knockout rounds of FIBA Asia. They lost to Qatar, South Korea and China, yet bounced back everytime they lost and defeated Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan and the do-or-die game with Jordan.
The losses that Lebanon incurred does not reflect its true strength. Either Lebanon is still in the process of cohesion or they are conserving their energy for the latter deadly rounds.
Rated number 34 in FIBA World rankings, Lebanon showed respectable performances in the three times they showed-up in the World Cup. They also played 8 times in FIBA Asia Championships and got 3 medals, all of them Silver. Of course, Lebanon dominated in a time when they still had star Fadi El Khatib. The prolific guard is not in the Asian line-up right now, partly due to his Chinese CBA team not releasing him, and more so because of insurance issues with his CBA contract. His absence though may have inspired his teammates to play harder and better in the present joust. You should also know that El Khatib still played for them in WABA 2015 where they were crowned as champions.
Current Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin was their mentor when they barged into the FIBA Worlds 2010. Surely, Baldwin knows the ins and outs of the Lebanese league, their style of play, and the cagers to look out for.
A newly formed squad, Lebanon is now under former Iranian coach Veselin Matić. The mercurial outspoken mentor transformed the Cedars from a team that formerly relies on the half-court setup offense, and now to a dynamic shooting run-and-gun team.
The run and gun gung-ho style of Lebanon is patterned to the gameplay of their naturalized player Jay Youngblood. He is a stocky, athletic and high flying guard. A deadly quick release sniper from the arc, Youngblood can shoot from all corners. Add to this the fact that he likes the euro step, no-look passes and also possesses a deadly crossover.
The new system that Lebanon implemented is what makes them dangerous and unpredictable. They don’t set-up a lot of offensive sets. They run, pass, shoot and attack the rim. And the Lebanese are deadly shooters and very athletic at their size. They shoot 39.6% in the trey territory compared to Gilas’ 36.2%. Random, unpredictable and fast. Anyone remembers the old Ginebra run and gun system?
The main weakness of Lebanon is their predictable defense. They have four players at 6’8 and two at 6’6. And they can give problems to our bigs. If their opponent uses the halfcourt set, they have better chances with the ceiling that they have. However, in all their losses, you can see that they had the hardest time opposite teams that employ the motion offense. They lost to Korea and China, with China using a system almost similar to the dribble drive of Pilipinas. This is where the Philippines can attack the Lebanese.
Players to look-out for include veteran Jean Abdelnour, their own defensive master. Amir Saoud is their threepoint specialist and shooting guard. They also have Lebanese American Bassel Bawji a monstrous Power Forward at 6’8, who can drive and post-up to the basket. He is also a strong rebounder, but lacks the shooting touch.
We expect Calvin “The Beast” Abueva to put the cuffs early against Youngblood to disrupt his offense. We also see Andray Blatche and Asi Taulava attacking and pounding the paint to dislodge Lebanon strongman Ali Haidar and place him in early foul problems. Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro should also be on point to shoot, drive and attack the defense of Lebanon. Our swingman must also convert the long bombs as we believe Dondon Hontiveros and Ranidel De Ocampo to stretch their rivals for a clear pathway for the dribble drive.
The Filipinos should conserve their fouls and avoid early entry to team penalty. The West Asians are prolific freethrow shooters at 62.4% charity percentage. The Gilas defensive challenge and quick reaction to open shooters will also be a major factor as the Lebanese snipers like to shoot during a fastbreak and whenever on a run.
The reality is, this game knows no tomorrow for the losing team. It is now a must-win game for Pilipinas. This is now or never, time to put-on that A game and bring Philippines back in the hard road to the Olympic goal.
Current IRAN NT FIBA Ranking: 34
- Jean Abd El Nour • SF • 6’6 • 32
- Amir Saoud • SG • 6’0 • 24
- Mohamad Ali Haidar • PF • 6’8 • 25
- Wael Arakji • G • 6’4 • 21
- Joseph Aby Kheres • C • 6’8 • 22
- Ahmad Ibrahim • SF • 6’4 • 23
- Nadim Souaid • G • 6’2 • 29
- Rodrigue Akl • G • 6’1 • 26
- Charles Tabet • PF • 6’8 • 27
- Bassel Bawji • PF • 6’8 • 25
- Jasmon Jovan Youngblood • SG • 6’4 • 31
- Omar EL Ayoubi • F • 6’6 • 23
- Head Coach Veselin Matić
FIBA Asia Appearances: 8
FIBA World Appearances: 3