Pegged as one of the weakest group in Group B of the 2014 World Cup, the Philippines came close to snatching two victories in their first three outings. The Filipinos face Puerto Rico on Wednesday night with both teams winless so far and aiming to get their first win in the basketball world championships in Spain.
2014 FIBA World Cup – Group B Standings Teams (win-loss)
1. Greece (3-0) 2. Argentina (2-1) 3. Croatia (2-1) 4. Senegal (2-1) 5. Philippines (0-3) 6. Puerto Rico (0-3)
Both national teams are not officially out of the running the tournament but they need to get the W on Wednesday night if they want a slim chance of advancing. Only the top four teams advance to the knockout rounds—the Round of 16 stage.
The Philippines want a victory over Puerto Rico and hope that Argentina beat Senegal also on Wednesday. If this scenario unfolds, the Philippines-Senegal match-up on Thursday will decide which team will end up with the final slot in Group B.
For Puerto Rico, they need to win against the Philippines, then Croatia on Thursday and hope the Croatians lose against Greece. In this scenario, they can make it to the next round depending on the quotient of the teams with tied records.
The Philippines and Puerto Rico last met in the hardwood 42 years ago with the Puerto Ricans blowing out the Filipinos, 92-72 at the 1927 Olympic Games in Germany.
Puerto Rico vs. Philippines Head-to-Head History (Official FIBA games):
Puerto Rico def. Philippines, 92-72 (Aug. 28, 1972) Puerto Rico def. Philippines, 89-65 (Oct. 18, 1968) Philippines def. Puerto Rico, 82-80 (Sept. 9, 1960) Puerto Rico def. Philippines, 76-63 (Jan. 18, 1959)
While Puerto Rico has the historical edge, the meeting on Wednesday is pegged as one of closely matched games in the group. The Philippines fell in close ones against Croatia (81-78, OT) and Argentina (85-81) but got blown out by Greece (82-70). It’s an embarrassing campaign so far for Puerto Rico with blowout losses to rival Argentina (98-75) and Greece (90-79) with a close shave against Senegal (82-75).
The Puerto Rico vs. Philippines match-up will feature one of the more interesting head-to-head clashes between two spitfire point guards: 5-foot-11 Jose Juan Barea of Argentina vs. 5-foot1-10 Jimmy Alapag of the Philippines. Barea, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA, leads Puerto Rico both in scoring (20.0 points per game) and assists (4.3 assists per game) while Alapag almost led the Philippines to an upset over Argentina 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the arc.
Puerto Rico will also bank on power forward Renaldo Balkman, who once played as an import in the Philippines. Balkman averages 18.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in the tournament. Meanwhile, the Philippines will rely on big man Andre Blatche, who played for the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets in the NBA. Blatche leads the Philippines in scoring with 21.3 points and rebounding with 13.7 caroms per outing.