GRAND-SLAM coach Tim Cone is concerned about whether the courageous Gilas Pilipinas team can get over the heartbreaking 81-78 loss to Croatia “emotionally,” when they play opening-day winner Greece today in the FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Seville, Spain.
The Greeks whipped Senegal, 87-64 at the start of the tournament.
While coach Chot Reyes told the Manila Standard/Viva Sports in a post-game interview from Seville that although the players were crushed by the overtime loss, “they’ll be fine.”
But he lamented a horrendous flopping call on Jason Castro in the dying seconds of the third quarter, which resulted in a deadly five-point swing that effectively cost the gallant Filipinos the game.
Krunoslav Simon, all of 6’5,” crashed into 5’10” Jason Castro, who was tagged with a flopping call, which Reyes said was a “game decider,” even as he wondered how the diminutive Filipino sentinel could possibly flop against a player seven inches taller and so much bigger.
Simon converted both free throws, before Damir Markota nailed a triple that gave Croatia a 57-49 lead going into the final quarter.
He said the referees “took it away,” in reference to the loss.
“They don’t respect us, we deserved better than that,” said Reyes.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche played through a “slightly twisted knee which was kind of tender,” according to Reyes who was forced to pull him out as he hobbled to the bench in the first half, with Croatia leading, 37-24.
An offensive foul called on Blatche and a basket by newly signed Brooklyn Nets’ 6’7” guard Bojan Bogdanovic pushed Croatia in front, 73-71, before the Philippines deadlocked the game for the last time at 75-all. And although Blatche blocked an inside attempt by Bogdanovic, Gabe Norwood fouled out on a call he didn’t agree with and the Croatian star made it 77-75.
But Blatche wasn’t ready to give in and nailed a pressure-packed three-point shot to bring the Filipinos to within one at 78-79 with 6.1 seconds left in overtime.
Two more free throws awarded Croatia gave them an 81-78 lead before Castro, in one desperate three-point attempt from the left sideline, was clearly fouled as shown on TV replays, but no call was made and Gilas Pilipinas agonized over a heartbreaking loss.
Blatche, who snapped out of a scoring slump in the first quarter when he missed six consecutive attempts after he tied the score at 2-2, finished with 28 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in 41 minutes of action, while Chan behind 4-of-6 three-pointers, added 17. March Pingris, who battled it out with the bigger Croatians inside the paint, came through with 10 points and 4 rebounds. Castro who hasn’t completely recovered from an Achilles injury contributed 6 points.
“We know that we belong. A lot of teams woke up and realized what kind of team we are. We’re getting better and we’ll keep on fighting,” Blatche told spin.ph.
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