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Asian Games 2018

Asian Games: Gilas Pilipinas and Jordan Clarkson hailed by fans and media after narrow loss to China

The country is unified in praising the team who have only been together for a few weeks yet stretched mighty China to the limit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 8:26am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 10:15am

Filipinos at home and abroad hailed NBA star Jordan Clarkson’s debut for the Gilas in their narrow defeat by China as the national team moved on from an unsavoury episode that almost stopped them from coming to the Asian Games.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Clarkson scored 28 points and went down with cramps late in the game as the Philippines lost 80-82 to China in Jakarta, having led 80-77 with less than a minute to go in their pool D encounter. It means they will likely finish second in their group if China beat Kazakhstan, as they are expected to do.

Asian Games: Gilas Philippines and Jordan Clarkson fall agonisingly short against China as Zhou Qi shows class

One of the Philippines’ most popular basketball journalists and TV personalities, TJ Manotoc, who is now based in Los Angeles, wrote on Twitter: “That was a blast to watch! Considering it was just [Clarkson’s] first game with a team that was scrambled together less than 2 weeks ago and almost beating China, WOW! Long way to go in the tournament. Should be fun!”

The Philippines initially withdrew from the Asian Games because 10 of their players, including Jakarta starters, were suspended by world governing body Fiba for their involvement in an ugly brawl with Australia during a World Cup qualifying game.

The country’s basketball governing body then decided to make a U-turn and play in the Asian Games, even though many of the players in the initial Filipino line-up were unavailable because of the ban. But they decided to field a core team and roped in Filipino-American Clarkson, who was first barred by the NBA from taking part before being given the green light days before the tournament started.

“Great effort, China got some lucky breaks in the end and we missed some point blank shots. But loved every second of the #MambaMentality showed by #GilasPilipinas,” wrote LakersNation PH on Twitter.

One social media user made a plea to China’s Zhou Qi, who plays for the Houston Rockets, to stop his domination after he scored 25 points for China in an impressive performance of skill and shooting.

“Zhou Qi, do you love me? Are you riding? Say you’ll never ever shoot again. Please? Ha ha ha,” wrote JC Arvelo Santos.

The Philippines media generally praised the team, saying they performed beyond expectations given the short time they have been together. The Gilas could very well meet China in the final again if both teams can get through their play-off matches, though the Philippines will have a tougher path as the second-placed team in group D.

South Korea are the defending champions, while China took silver at the last Asian Games in Incheon.

Chuck Araneta, a prominent Filipino basketball journalist, wrote: “Despite the loss, the team is still breathing, and still fighting. The road to a medal might be tougher, particularly with a top squad like Korea waiting in the wings. Clarkson will have time to recover, and grow more familiar with his teammates. The chemistry and continuity will only get better.”

His colleague, respected writer Sid Ventura, was focusing more on Clarkson’s role, reporting that the NBA player impressed on his first outing but has room to improve.

“While many were mesmerised, Clarkson himself wasn’t celebrating,” wrote Ventura. “He didn’t speak to the media, but a source said he told team manager Butch Antonio after the game: ‘I’ll do better in the next game’.”