Gilas got ‘Serbed’

Serbia's Miroslav Raduljica (R) handles the ball against Japeth Aguilar of the Philippines during the Basketball World Cup Group D game between Serbia and Philippines in Foshan on September 2, 2019. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu / AFP)

FOSHAN, China – Gilas Pilipinas suffered yet another embarrassing defeat, this time, from the hands of Serbia, 126-67, in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Monday night at the GBA Sports and Cultural Arena here.

Sacramento Kings gunners Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic paced the attack while skipper Miroslav Raduljica provided the spunk for the Serbians, who booted the Filipinos out of contention in this prestigious 32-nation tournament.

After missing their opening game against Angola, Bjelica delivered 20 points on an immaculate 7 of 7 shooting from the field while Bogdanovic chipped in 17 markers laced with four treys for the European powerhouse, which is t tipped to give reigning champion United States a run for its money.

Raduljica, a campaigner in the Chinese Basketball Association, registered 13 points while sparking an early rally that threw the Filipinos out of their comfort zones.

With the loss, Gilas Pilipinas is now relegated to the losers’ bracket in Beijing and would play two more matches for 17th to 32nd places starting next week.

They, however, still has one more game in the first round against Angola on Wednesday, but it would virtually be a no-bearing encounter after the African champions suffered a 61-92 loss to Italy in the other match.

“Serbia is just too big, too good for us. They are a tough team and I think they have a very good chance of beating the United States,” said Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao, whose wards again haunted by their poor shooting and the sluggish play of naturalized player Andray Blatche, who scored only five points in 28 minutes of action.

“We shot only 4 of 24 from the three-point area. There’s no way we can beat a good team like Serbia if we can’t make your outside shots. We can’t beat them inside so we might as well make our outside shots.”

With Blatche struggling, CJ Perez and Paul Lee picked up the scoring cudgels with 16 and 15 points, respectively, while June mar Fajardo chipped in eight markers while standing his ground against prolific Serbian big men Nikola Jokic and Boban Marjanovic.

“It was a tough loss,” Lee said. “We failed to do our job of keeping the game close. For us, Serbia is the number one team in this tournament right now.”

Unlike against Italy where they were massacred right from the start en route to a 46-point loss, Gilas managed to stay close to the taller, heftier and more skillful Serbians in the opening period.

Blatche knocked down a trey from the left flank to forge a tie, 7-7, before Lee delivered a short stab to notch their first lead in this prestigious 32-nation tournament, 9-7, with six minutes left.

But that proved to be the final stand of the Filipinos.

With Raduljica and Stefan Bircevic buckling down to work, Serbia dropped a 21-4 bomb to turn a razor-thin 7-9 deficit into a massive 28-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Then, they waged another massive 34-13 rally in the second period to post a 27-point lead at the half, 62-35, and crush whatever confidence the Filipinos have.

The merciless beating continued in the third period as Marjanovic delivered a beautiful one-hand floater from 20 feet that was rare for a 7-foot-3 center to give Serbia a 51-point lead at the end of the period, 99-48, leaving Filipino gallery crushed and defeated.