Gilas Pilipinas welcomed back Andray Blatche with an 84-46 beating of Qatar, and his great game drew praises from national coach Yeng Guiao.
“Andray just created a lot of opportunities for us, both on offense and defense. He changed the whole team and the guys just felt good playing with him,” said Guiao.
Blatche topscored for 17 points for Team Pilipinas which overcame its first stumbling block in its FIBA World Cup campaign on Thursday at the Al-Gharafa Sports Club Multi-purpose Hall in Doha (Friday in Manila).
Gilas claimed its first win following a two-game slide to start the sixth and final window of the 2019 Asian Qualifiers, improving to 6-5 in the standings in Group F.
The Philippine team kept its World Cup hopes alive even if it is behind both Japan and Iran in Group F.
Japan beat Iran, 89-77, and both teams are tied with identical 7-4 cards.
The Japanese hold the tiebreaker.
The return of Blatche inspired the Filipinos to play the way they did before.
The 32-year-old Blatche missed out on the action in the previous two windows of play in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. He missed a total of four games.
Against Qatar he also had 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
“He draws a lot of attention from the defense which creates the openings. That’s why we shot a lot of three point shots. We got the good looks and the openings,” said Guiao.
The Philippines started the second half with four straight triples from Paul Lee and Blatche, breaking the game wide open in favor of the Filipinos.
The Philippine team, which posted its best shooting performance in these Asian Qualifiers, went on stretch a 31-21 lead into a 62-30 spread.