With two wins by forfeiture against South Korea and a breeze versus India, Gilas Pilipinas finally faces a test in taking on New Zealand in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday.
The Nationals, hastily assembled they may be, have a shot at a four-game sweep in the opening window of the 2023 WC elims although they’re setting out as the underdogs versus the Kiwis in their 7 p.m. setto.
Ranked No. 27 in the world, New Zealand showed its might in a 101-46 blasting of India in the opener of Pool A hostilities Thursday.
The lone threat to Australia in the Oceania region, New Zealand has maintained its lofty status even in the merger of the Oceania and Asian teams in FIBA play.
EuroLeague veteran Tai Jack Webster collected 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Kiwis to an 89-80 win over the Andre Blatche-led Gilas team in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the MOA Arena in 2016.
And the Kiwis performed better than the Nationals in the succeeding 2017 FIBA Asia Cup and the 2019 World Cup. They finished fourth behind Australia, Iran and South Korea in the Asia Cup where Gilas placed seventh, and they were 19th in the last World Cup where the Filipinos ended up dead last in a 32-team field.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes acknowledges New Zealand as a formidable team.