Another loss to Lebanon exposes PH’s paltry preparation period; Clarkson vows stronger showing vs Saudi Arabia
The performance was rickety at best, one held together by the scoring prowess of Jordan Clarkson—who was far from satisfied in his debut in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
“We had a chance to win the game. I missed some shots towards the end of the game and I feel like I usually make as well, so just a tough one tonight,” said the Utah Jazz star after host Lebanon tripped the Philippines, 85-81, in a showdown that went down the wire late Thursday night in Beirut (early Friday morning in Manila.
Clarkson shot 6-of-17 from the field and made only two out of nine attempts from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Cedars were tough and efficient down the stretch, with Lebanon star Wael Arakji pulling his squad through in the stretch.
The Fiba Asia Cup Most Valuable Player put the game to bed with the game-clinching triple, 83-78, 18 seconds to go.
“We expected it to be a big challenge, a big battle for us. But I’m very proud of how our team played. We battled hard,” Reyes said on the heels of the heartbreaker at Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex.
“I think we did a good job of competing,” Clarkson added. “Coach prepared us really well in terms of scouting this team out and we had a great game plan coming in.”
And now the need to move forward. On top of the to-do list? Chemistry.
The team’s unfamiliarity, which officials had earlier said had been addressed, reared its head as Reyes felt that his charges’ errors truly doomed Gilas’ chances at payback.
The Filipinos had 21 turnovers against the Cedars’ nine—that’s 12 free possessions to a team that finished a very close second to world power Australia in the Asia Cup.
And Reyes knows all too well that it’s the result of a short camp.
“Twenty-one turnovers were really was the big difference in this ball game and that’s just a result of us not yet as familiar with each other as we’d like to be,” he said.
Gilas only started preparing for this window of Fiba games last Aug. 15. Clarkson, who was tapped as the team’s naturalized player, joined the squad five days later. The Nationals were able to train as a complete bunch for just five days.
Clarkson, who was all over the court with 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists, remains optimistic that the foundational pieces are there for the country’s World Cup bid.
“We got some good young stars on the team. Dwight (Ramos) played really well tonight as well. Kai (Sotto) played well,” the Filipino-American ace said.
Ramos accounted for a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds and led both nations in efficiency that night.
The 7-foot-3 Sotto, meanwhile, finished with 10 points spiked with a handful of dunks that went with eight boards and a pair of blocks.
Lebanon’s coach Jad El Hajj heaped praises on this edition of the Gilas squad, saying Clarkson’s supporting cast was just as commendable.
“Even if Jordan scored 27, that doesn’t take away the fact that they played pretty well. They did an amazing job, many times they didn’t let him receive the ball and this is amazing,” he said.
“For us, this is bright. We’re just getting this team together. We got some good young stars on the team,” said Clarkson.
A winner of the NBA’s Sixth Man trophy, Clarkson took the blame for the loss but promised a better team performance at Mall of Asia Arena on Monday night.
“We’re going to be back to Manila and we got Saudi Arabia (next),” he said. “We’re gonna be prepared and I’ll be prepared for that. We’ll try to get a win at home.”
The Filipinos dropped to 2-3 in their group. The Philippines, however, has already qualified for the World Cup by virtue of being the event’s main cohost and is using the qualifying matches as a means to carve a roster for the global basketball showcase.