Asian Games: Gilas Philippines and Jordan Clarkson fall agonisingly short against China as Zhou Qi shows class
The two NBA stars went head to head as the Philippines squander a late 80-77 lead to go down 82-80 in their group D game
Zhao Rui made two free throws with 13 seconds left to help a desperate China hold off a determined Philippines team 82-80 in their Asian Games pool D basketball game on Tuesday in Jakarta.
The Gilas, boasting Cleveland Cavaliers pro Jordan Clarkson in their ranks, battled brilliantly against the taller Chinese after a poor first quarter, even taking a 80-77 lead late in the game.
But they wasted a chance to put the game away when Paul Dalistan missed from under the basket in the final seconds, with Clarkson conceding a fourth foul that took him out of the game and Zhao casually sinking his two free throws.
It was China’s first game of the tournament while Philippines were coming off a victory over Kazakhstan.
“We expected a physical game and that’s what I told the players,” said China coach Li Nan. “We just wanted to keep on attacking.
“It was a tough game and I’m happy to have got through it. We have some young players in the team so it was important for guys like [Houston Rockets’] Zhou Qi and [Dallas Mavericks’] Ding Yanyuhang to step up and bring them along.”
For Philippines coach Yeng Guiao, the performance was a moral victory.
“We had a chance to win the game with the last shot but those are the breaks of the game,” he said. “The effort is really good and I give credit to the boys. To me, this is like a won game.”
Since starting to field their professional players at the 1990 Beijing Olympics, the Philippines have failed to win gold in the Asian Games. However, fans in the basketball-mad country are counting on their new breed of professionals, led by Clarkson and the tricky Stanley Pringle, to make a breakthrough in Jakarta.
And after stretching China to the limit, the Gilas appear to have what it takes to reach the final, even though they would face a tougher path after their defeat.
Clarkson top-scored for the Gilas with 28 points, including five three-pointers. Veteran Christian Standardinger had an outstanding game, scoring 18 points while Pringle contributed 14.
Dalistan had 10 points, turning up at key moments just as China looked to be running away with it but was unable to put the finishing touches with seconds remaining.
It was later revealed that Clarkson was suffering cramps in both feet, which is why he was unable to play a major part in the final minutes of the game.
Zhou led China with 25 points, with four threes, with Wang Zhelin (13), Abudushalamu Abudurexiti (12) and Zhao Rui also getting into double figures.
Clarkson showed some of his NBA magic but was mostly overshadowed by a calm and solid Zhou, who grabbed almost everything in the air and commanded the free throw line with nine of his points coming from being fouled.
Gilas player Gabe Norwood said the team were happy that they stuck to a game plan and nearly pulled it off.
“We expected to play hard, man, and stick to our game plan, We kept it close, that was the whole idea, keep it close in the fourth and give ourselves a chance. If we do that, then we might have done it but unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it in the end.
“We missed a lot of free throws and jump shots in the first quarter, that was key especially with them making shots. They were making everything but we came out hard towards the end of the game and I think that tells you a lot about our team.
“They are an experienced team, they do have some younger guys but they have all represented their country. We also have some new faces representing us and it was a great learning experience.
“When we were in the lead, we thought we were going to win. That’s always how we should think. Even down to the last shot. Paul [Dalistan] missed a shot that he makes in the league back in the Philippines all the time.
“We are still motivated to play, we have more games to go but I think we don’t play for another week so we have some time to get some rest.”