FOSHAN, China – Italy delivered a masterclass, mercilessly crushing Gilas Pilpinas by 46 points, 108-62, in the opening salvo of the FIBA Basketball World Cup late Saturday at the GBA International Sports and Cultural Center in this bustling metropolis in Southern China.
Seasoned Euroleague campaigners Luigi Datome and Amedeo Della Valle were at their best while NBA star Danilo Gallinari lived to the hype as the Italians gave the Filipinos a neat lesson on how to compete in the international stage via a massive, painful rout.
Datome delivered 17 points on a perfect 7 of 7 shooting from the field while sweet-shooting Dela Valle also registered 17 points for the Italians, who took advantage of the shorter, slower and nervous Filipinos right from the opening quarter.
Gallinari, the Oklahoma City winger who just came from an appendectomy operation and missed the greater part of their friendly series, was also a solid force to be reckoned with as he chipped in 16 points while fellow NBA star Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs had nine markers for the Italians, who led by as many as 59 points.
The loss definitely hurt Gilas Pilipinas.
After being crushed by 36 points in a friendly match two years ago, Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao was hoping for a different outcome, claiming that his wards are more eager and ready to pull off a massive shocker.
Their hopes were further fanned by scouting reports revealing that Gallinari wasn’t in his best shape while Datome and Della Valle are coming from various injuries as the Italians failed to perform well in the warmup matches.
A victory could have put the Filipinos on the verge of Philippine basketball history as they only need to win over Angola on Wednesday to advance to the second round in Wuhan.
But it didn’t happen as the Italians showed up with fire in their eyes, knocking down shots from all angles, leaving Gilas stars like Andray Blatche, Gabe Norwood, Kiefer Ravena and June Mar Fajardo struggling for form.
“Our outside shooting didn’t work and we had a lot of early turnovers,” said Guiao, whose wards are in a very complicated situation as they have to win over Angola while praying for the African champions to defeat the Italians for them to have a fighting chance of advancing to the second round in Wuhan.
“Those miscues allowed the Italians to build momentum early on and gave them the confidence to dictate the tempo the rest of the way.”
True enough, the Italians delivered a masterclass right from the opening buzzer.
With the Filipinos playing in front of their President, who sat in the skybox together with Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chairman emeritus Manny Pangilinan and other ranking government officials, the Italians didn’t waste time to embarrass them, racing to a 22-4 lead off a Jeff Hackett trey in the first seven minutes of the match.
As if that beating wasn’t enough, Gallinari and Belinelli buckled down to work, sparking a quick 7-0 run to close the first quarter with a massive 29-point cushion, 37-8.
All in all, the Italians missed only three of their 18 shots in the first quarter with 6-of-8 from deep.
On the other hand, the Filipinos went 4 of 13 from the field and missed all of their shots from the rainbow area while turning the ball over eight times.
The punishing blows continued in the second quarter as Italy stepped on the gas, erecting a huge 38-point lead, 62-24, off a jumper by Gallinari to enter the half with massive momentum.
Blatche was the lone bright spot while CJ Perez had some flashes of brilliance for the Filipinos, who will have a one-day rest before facing world superpower Serbia on Monday.
Blatche and Perez had 15 points apiece while Robert Bolick chipped in six markers on top of some good defensive stops.