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How will the Philippines perform without their key First Round contributors?
Having won all of their games so far except the two losses against group-leaders Australia, (who they won’t play in the Second Round of the Qualifiers) the Philippines might have been confident heading into Window 4. However, following the altercation in the second game against Australia and the consequent sanctions that have been imposed, the Philippines will be without some key contributors from previous windows.
The team has also taken a hit with June Mar Fajardo being unavailable through injury. Fajardo was the biggest contributor in the Qualifiers so far who would have been eligible to play (15+ points in three games, 60% shooting percentage). The story of Window 4 for the Philippines will very much be about resiliency and new players stepping up.
One of the most notable stats when looking at the Philippines previous games is how well they have protected the rim. They lead Group F by a significant margin in blocked shots. A big part of this has been the defensive efforts of Andray Blatche however, who won’t be available this window. It will be interesting to look how the team looks to counter the loss of this huge presence in the paint.
70 points seems to be the magic number offensively, with the Philippines having reached this target in all their victories, and failed to reach 70 points in their two losses. The other key to victory has been that the Philippines has outrebounded and scored more points in the paint than their opponents in team wins. Similarly to blocked shots however, Blatche is the team’s biggest rebounder and it will require a huge team effort to crash the boards in his absence.
Games featuring the Philippines have generally been up and down. The Philippines has forced a lot of turnovers (joint sixth in all Asian qualifying), but has also turned the ball over a lot themselves (seventh in Asian qualifying). With new players coming in, a key focus will need to be on controlling the basketball and not wasting possessions.
As expected, with the squad missing so many players from the previous windows, the Philippines will be looking for players to step into new roles. Notably, the team called up two naturalized Filipino players into the team’s pre-window camp.
The first is Stanley Pringle, a Filipino-American guard. Having played professionally overseas previously, in 2014 he was (at the time) the oldest player to be drafted number 1 in the PBA at 27 years old. Notably, in June this year he dropped 50 points in a PBA game, including a 9/16 line from three point range. He will provide the team with a significant threat from the perimeter.
The second player is funnily enough the player who succeeded Pringle as the oldest player to be drafted number one into the PBA when he entered the league in 2017. Christian Standhardinger is a Filipino-German Forward currently playing for the San Miguel Beermen. He offers more of an interior presence than Pringle, scoring his points in the paint and in transition. He represented the Philippines in the 2017 Asia Cup, averaging 16 points per game and 5.7 rebounds.
With FIBA rules dictating that each team can only play one player classed as ‘naturalized’ in a game, the team will have to choose carefully before each game.
Iran (FIBA World Ranking 25)
Iran will provide a real test for the new-look Filipino roster. Iran lost their opening qualifier to Iraq, who they then defeated by 30 points in their return fixture. They went on to win all other games so far, and have an average points differential of 17.2. Iran allows opposing teams to score the fewest points per game (58.5) and this was typified in a game against Qatar in which the visitors scored just 39 points.
Iran is led by Hamed Haddadi who has been one of the star performers in the Asian Qualifiers. Across all players in the region he sits seventh (16.8) in points per game, second in rebounding per game (12), seventh in blocks per game (1.5) and is even fifteenth in steals per game (1.8). The man in the middle could be the key for Iran.
Qatar (FIBA World Ranking 61)
The Philippines will look at Qatar as a big opportunity to get some points on the board. Qatar comes into the Second Round with a 2-4 record, with both of their wins coming against Iraq who have now been eliminated from qualifying. In a display that may hint there’s more to Qatar than their record would necessarily suggest, they lost a close game to Iran (who have a 5-1 record) by just two points in the previous window.
Abdulrahman Saad has been the star player for Iran, averaging 16 points per game, and will be the biggest threat for the Philippines to look out for.