Philippines, 29 May 2024
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Not a bad loss, Pinoy cagers to bounce back

Filipino-American NBA veteran Jordan Clarkson heaved and barreled his way for 28 points following a jittery start that saw the Philippines absorbed a heart-rending 80-82 loss at the hands of powerhouse China in Group D play in basketball of the 18th Asian Games at the full house Istora Galora Bong Karno Hall in Jakarta.

The 6-foot-5 Cleveland Cavaliers guard had 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals to complete his first ever game wearing a nation?s colors as the Filipinos fell 13 seconds and a three-point shot short of what could have been a monumental upset in the four-group, 12-team field.

Ironically, it was Clarkson?s foul, with 13 ticks remaining while going for a steal that paved the way for the winning free throws.

In the next play, sentinel Paul Lee muffed a three-ball try from beyond the arc in a shot he made many times before, that dashed all the hopes left for he Filipinos to march to victory and make their way in the quarterfinal round easier.

Earlier, Clarkson, whose mother Annette is a Filipina from Angeles in Pampanga, had to sit the bench while battling leg camps brought about by nearly two months basketball inactivity since the Cavs lost to the Golden State Warriors in the last season?s NBA finals.

Despite the loss, which came following the team?s 96-59 lopsided conquest of similarly bigger Kazakhstan Thursday last week, coach Yeng Guiao was happy with the way his boys played.

?I was very happy with the efforts of the boys,? Guiao told said in a telephone interview the morning after the game. ?They gave it their all and that?s all I could ask from them.?

?The breaks went China?s way but we gave the Asian superpower a big scare,? the mentor of NLEX team in the PBA said. ?Clarkson was good as advertised, but he suffered leg cramp in the end game. It was a superb performance nonetheless.?

?We look forward to playing Korea and advancing to the medal round,? he said in reference to defending champion South Korea, which, most likely will be the next opponent as potential leader in Group A. ?Ninety percent Korea na, mahina ang group nila eh.?

With the title-defending Koreans? bracket are the Philippines? favorite whipping boys Thailand and host Indonesia and Myanmar.

Guiao said the play was really for anybody who could be free to make the shots, adding he didn?t want to take a gamble inserting James Yap in the lineup that late because "James couldn?t get going.?

?James went 0-of-4. I didn?t use Chris (Tiu) naman because we would be going too small at guard,? he said by way of explaining his decision not to field Tiu he entire game.

It was quiet a debut for Clarkson whose point-production 28 markers tied the best debut by a reinforcement player for the Philippine team. Andray Blatche also finished with 28 points against Croatia during an 81-78 overtime loss in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Most of the first half, China defended him on single coverage, but come the third, he was drawing double teams.

China?s twin towers in Zhou Qi who is with the Houston Rockets and Wang Zhelin who is with the Memphis Grizzlies had monster games and proved the big trouble for Guiao?s charges.

The 22-year old Zhou finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds, seven blocks, two assists and one steal! While the 24-year-old Wang finished with 13 points and seven boards.

The Filipino big boys didn?t disapoint, though ? Christian Stanhardinger, Beau Belga, Poy Erram, Raymond Almazan and Asi Taulava held their own in rebounding and defense against heir taller and heftier Chinese counterparts.

Stanhardinger was superb in he third and part of the fourth. Belga forced Ding Yanhuhang to foul out.

Defense got the Philippines back in the game in the third and fourth periods.

Guiao vowed to work harder in practice before resuming campaign. Expect King James to play better next time around. As well as Lee, Pringle, Belga and Erram. Expect, too, to see Tiu in action.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eddie Alinea.

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