Favored Lebanese smell blood

Lebanon will enjoy a rock-solid momentum when it battles Gilas Pilipinas in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers early Friday (Manila time) in Beirut.

Riding on their recent silver-medal success in the FIBA Asia Cup, the Cedars will stake a lot in their bid of making a historic appearance in the World Cup next year.

For one, the world No. 54 squad has never lost in its previous six games at home.

Lebanon boasts an average winning margin at home is 35.8 points per game with no other team coming closer than 19 points.

And with the local crowd tipped to swarm the 8,000-seater Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex, the Filipinos should expect the odds stacked against them.

But their advantage is more than that.

With the Cedars retaining their 18-man roster led by Wael Arakji, they have the opportunity to overwhelm the Philippines from both ends of the floor, similar to what they did in the Asia Cup.

During that tourney, the Lebanese limited their opponents to only 74 points on a shaky 42.5 percent shooting from the field.

The Philippines was even forced to commit 22 fouls and 16 turnovers that eventually led to a lopsided 95-80 win for the Lebanese.

Should their clash go down the wire, the Cedars could always rely on their most clutch player in Arakji.

Earning the moniker “The Great,” the 27-year-old playmaker is pumped up to continue his fiery form at home.

Arakji will be Gilas’ biggest threat on offense, averaging 26 points, four assists and 3.2 rebounds that allowed him to win the Asia Cup Most Valuable Player award.

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