This is the first meeting ever at this level for both Gilas and New Zealand, and the stakes cannot be any higher.  Fatigue will be a concern for the hosts, who left everything on the floor against FRA last night. The question is do they have enough gas in the tank to play at a high level again against the higher ranked Kiwis. The Tall Blacks, meanwhile, are going to revel in the explosive atmosphere in the MOA Arena, but can they thrive in it or will they succumb under the pressure? Without key players like Linday Tait, Kirk Penney, Jarrod Kenny, Reuben Te Rangi and Tai Wynyard, NZL isn’t at full strength, but they are still a very formidable team. The time seems to be right for Gilas to notch a big win over a higher ranked squad and make the semis.

FIBA Rankings: PHL - 28, NZL - 21

PHL needs to win the rebound battle here. Blatche, RDO, Troy, Ping and MAYBE Japeth have to really fight it out on the boards, especially against guys like Isaac Fotu, Rob Loe, Mike Karena, and Mika Vukona. The guards and shooters have to get going, too, and, if possible, they need another strong start to dictate the tempo early. If they let the Kiwis dictate the tempo, the Pinoys will be in a big hole.

NZL surely has to limit Blatche, who started on fire against FRA. If Blatche gets going early here, the Kiwis may not have the depth to withstand that. NZL’s outside shooting will be key, too, especially since star guard Corey Webster may not be 100%. Other wing guys like Shea Ili, Tai Webster, and Tom Abercrombie need to bring their A-game.

Japeth Aguilar - 6’9 - 29
Andray Blatche - 6’11 - 29
Jayson Castro - 5’10 - 29
Jeff Chan - 6’2 - 33
Ranidel De Ocampo - 6’6 - 34
June Mar Fajardo - 6’10 - 26
Gabe Norwood - 6’5 - 31
Ray Parks - 6’4 - 23
Marc Pingris - 6’6 - 34
Ryan Reyes - 6’2 - 32
Terrence Romeo - 6’0 - 24
Troy Rosario - 6’7 - 24

Tom Abercrombie - 6’6 - 29
BJ Anthony - 6’6 - 27
Everard Bartlett - 6’4 - 30
Isaac Fotu - 6’8 - 22
Shea Ili - 6’0 - 23
Michael Karena - 6’10 - 22
Rob Loe - 6’11 - 24
Jordan Ngatai - 6’5 - 23
Derone Raukawa - 5’11 - 21
Mika Vukona - 6’6 - 34
Corey Webster - 6’1 - 27
Tai Webster - 6’4 - 21

Key Players:
Andray Blatche - For sure, Blatche is the barometer of Gilas’s chances. He was one of the five best players last night, and we’ll need another big game from the big guy for us to stay alive for that Rio ticket.

Jayson Castro & Terrence Romeo - These two had their moments last night, but in the end they just couldn’t outplay Tony Parker and Nando De Colo. They will have their hands full here again with the Webster brothers and Shea Ili, but if Castro & Romeo can play efficiently, Gilas should be in good shape.

June Mar Fajardo - Fajardo didn’t see a lot of minutes and production last night, and when he was on the floor he couldn’t really make an impact. That has to change here. he doesn’t have to score a ton, but the two-time PBA MVP just needs to make his presence felt for Gilas to be even more of a potent squad. 

Corey Webster - Webster was this team’s leading scorer last year in FIBA Oceania, and he will be their main offensive threat again as long as he is 100%. He can score from anywhere — curling off screens, pulling up, or breaking down his defender. 

Isaac Fotu - Fotu was NZL’s most efficient player last year, and he is expected to be their best frontliner here, too. He scores well around the hole and rebounds like a monster. He looks and plays a lot like Joakim Noah — a big man who does the dirty work and who’s also a very good passer.

Mika Vukona - Vukona is this team’s veteran leader. He doesn’t tend to score much, but he rebounds really well and is maybe this team’s best playmaker.

Key Match-up: Andray Blatche vs Isaac Fotu
- The task of hampering Blatche will fall on the lap of Fotu. Blatche certainly has a more polished offensive skill-set, but Fotu has the energy, effort, and motor to hassle and harass Blatche for the whole 40 minutes.

All images are from FIBA.com.




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