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FIBA Asia Cup: Group top spot at stake as Gilas battles Iraq

After slaying China in the opener, the challenge for Gilas Pilipinas is to make sure it doesn’t take its foot off the gas.

The Filipinos look for win No. 2 when they face Iraq in the FIBA Asia Cup at Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday. Tip-off is at 4 p.m., Manila time.

By defeating the defending champions to open pool play on Wednesday, Gilas is now done with the tough part of its schedule.

It doesn’t mean it’s time for the Philippines to relax though, especially against a team it needs to beat to take solo first place in Group B.

Here are some key points ahead of the Gilas-Iraq game:

  • Stay composed. Except for the Calvin Abueva head butt that led to his ejection in the first quarter on Wednesday, Gilas kept its emotions in check despite China’s bullying tactics. The Filipinos should expect Iraq to be extra physical, which means they need to be mindful of their own temperament, focus on the game and avoid being involved in shenanigans.
     
  • Kevin Galloway, Iraq’s top player. The 6-foot-7 naturalized guard scored a game-high 16 points in Iraq’s 75-66 win over Qatar. Galloway can be a threat anywhere on the floor. He’s an aggressive scorer, although to a fault sometimes. His combination of size, speed and strength will keep Gilas defenders on their toes. One key stat on Galloway? He played the entire 40 minutes against Qatar. Finding a way to sit him on the bench — either by tiring him out or getting him into foul trouble — could spell a difference.
     
  • It starts with defense. Gilas made 10-of-17 3-pointers against China, but it can’t expect to be that accurate again versus Iraq. One thing the Philippines can control, however, is how it plays on defense. Similar to the China game, Gilas needs to be as devastating on that side of the floor against Iraq. Gang rebounding, quickly closing out shooters, and causing turnovers all helped to bring down China. That mayhem mentality could have similar results on Friday.After slaying China in the opener, the challenge for Gilas Pilipinas is to make sure it doesn’t take its foot off the gas.

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