Four thoughts as Gilas Pilipinas record much-needed win over India

After losing their past four games, Gilas Pilipinas got back to winning ways with a 79-63 victory over India in the Asian qualifiers for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup on Sunday. FIBA

A ten-man Gilas Pilipinas team got the job done against India, 79-63, on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena to advance to the second round of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

The final result was closer than expected -- given the FIBA rankings of both countries -- but credit must be given to India coach Veselin Matic for making adjustments in the second half to make the game a little more competitive.

The result gave Philippines a 2-2 record and India a 0-4 record in Group E, but both teams along with New Zealand -- on 4-0 -- will move on to the next round as a result of Korea's disqualification.

After losing to New Zealand last Thursday, Gilas coach Nenad Vucinic said they needed a bounce-back win, and regardless of the final score, they got just that.

Here are four thoughts on the game and what lies ahead.

Another man down for Gilas

Following the loss to New Zealand, Vucinic spoke of the possibility of playing only ten healthy players against India after Carl Tamayo sprained his ankle.

Gilas did trot out only ten players, but it was forward Dave Ildefonso who was missing. The Ateneo Blue Eagles stalwart was a late scratch after his knee acted up, and he will now likely miss the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup as well.

With a limited rotation, Vucinic gave each player at least 11 minutes of playing time, with no one cracking the 30-minute barrier.

Dwight Ramos clocked the most minutes with 29:07, and he and Kiefer Ravena probably would have sat out the fourth quarter if India hadn't gone on a little run that got the MOA Arena crowd just a teeny bit nervous.

A small but very vocal portion of that crowd voiced its approval when they saw Ramos head back to the scorer's table late in the game.

"Our defense in the first half was very good," Vucinic noted. "We forced India into a lot of turnovers. In the second half, we shouldn't have taken our foot off the pedal."

Abando struggles, but Quiambao proves effective

The two newest members of this Gilas lineup had contrasting performances.

Aside from Ramos, Abando was the other crowd favorite. Every time he had the ball, you could hear a certain buzz in the crowd as they urged him to shoot it.

Maybe it was the pressure of playing before a home crowd, but the Letran star simply didn't have it this time as he went 1-of-6 for two points and was the only Gilas player with a negative efficiency rating (-4).

Meanwhile, Quiambao chipped in an efficient 6-5-6 points-rebounds-assists stat line which included a nifty no-look bounce pass to Will Navarro who finished the play with a reverse slam.

The incoming La Salle Green Archers rookie has slowly become more comfortable, and he's certainly looked better than he did during the two-game Korea series.

India is gradually getting there

India is currently ranked 82nd in the world, just behind Uganda and ahead of Syria. But they do have the tools to eventually make some noise. What's more, they have that one quality that matters the most in basketball: height.

Five Indian players stand at least 6-foot-8, led by their veteran center, the 6-11 Vivek Goti. Then there's the 19-year-old Aryan, who is listed at 7-2. Goti and Aryan alternated at the slot and hauled down seven rebounds each while accounting for all three of India's shot blocks.

When Matic switched to a zone defense in the second half with either Goti or Aryan anchoring the middle, it made Gilas a little uncomfortable on offense. India actually outscored Gilas 39-34 in the second half.

Aside from height, India also has youth going for it. This team's average age is 22. Only one player, guard Vishesh Bhrigovanshi, is older than 29. They're tall and young. They just need to get better.

"Only Vishesh is from the old generation," Matic said. "Physically we are good, technically we are not bad."

On to the FIBA Asia Cup

Both teams will fly to Jakarta in the coming week to participate in the FIBA Asia Cup.

It's not yet clear what the Gilas line-up will look like. There's a possibility that some TNT players will be tapped since the PBA adjusted its Philippine Cup schedule to have the Tropang Giga finish all their 11 elimination round games before the July 12 opening of the FIBA Asia Cup.

But if they will go to war with this crew, then two slots need to filled.

Vucinic prefers to address their need in the middle but, when pressed for some names, he mentioned Ray Parks and Thirdy Ravena as possibilities.

There's also a chance that Kai Sotto will accept the SBP's invitation to join the team since no NBA team has signed him to the summer league. Ricci Rivero was also recently invited to join the Gilas pool, and the coaches have mentioned his name a couple of times.