Blatche-less Gilas Pilipinas bows to Iran

Iran brought back 7-foot-2 star center Hamed Haddadi from a one-day rest and derailed Gilas Pilipinas’ title bid in the 2015 Jones Cup with a 74-65 win at the Xinchuang Gymnasium in Taiwan on Thursday. Haddadi played extended minutes after sitting out their game against USA Select-Overtake the previous day, coming through with game highs of 22 points and 15 rebounds to power the Iranians past the Filipinos in an exciting duel of FIBA Asia fierce rivals.

The Iranians, in the process, boosted their Jones Cup title aspiration with a 5-1 win-loss card while dimming the Filipinos’ own quest with a second loss against three wins.

Coaches of both sides played down the outcome of the game, though, saying the true battle will be in Changsha, China late this month. Iranian coach Dirk Bauermann and Gilas mentor Tab Baldwin agreed the outcome of the game can’t be used as a gauge to their rematch in the FIBA Asia meet, saying both squads will be better in the Changsha joust.

Bauermann mentioned the absence of Andray Blatche in the Gilas lineup while Baldwin cited Samad Bahrami as another major force they have to deal with in Changsha. Bahrami, for the longest time now considered the deadliest all-around player in Asia, is not present here, opting to heal a minor injury in Tehran.

For Baldwin, it’s just a game “between two teams trying to prepare for an important tournament in couples of week.” He said they’re far from a form competitive to win the championship in China, and it’s evident as they played catch-up basketball against Iran almost all throughout.

Down by four at 61-65 with 3:41 left, the Filipinos eventually yielded the game as they went scoreless in the next three minutes of the game.