Jordan Clarkson, the lone Filipino in the National Basketball Association (NBA), saved his best game for last as the Utah Jazz star threw bombs after bombs in the third quarter against China, leading the Philippine, 96-75, to end the host country’s campaign on a winning note in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Sunday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.
It was the Philippines’ biggest win in its head-to-head history against China, eclipsing its 51-32 win in the 1948 Olympics
Clarkson drained five consecutive triples in the pivotal third quarter, on top of four shots from inside the arc and a free throw as he shot an unconscious nine out 11 from the field in the quarter for 24 points, 14 more than China’s 10 quarter points.
Clarkson’s explosion erected a 23-point bubble, 73-50, to end the third quarter as Gilas never looked back against their continental rival, ending the game and the tournament with a ticket to the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
In the process, Clarkson ended with 34 points, beating the record of Ramon Cruz as the highest scoring Filipino in a single Basketball World Cup game.
The former University of the East standout scored 33 points in the 1978 edition in Manila in an 88-99 loss against Canada.
Clarkson also finished his campaign as the tournament’s second leading scorer at 26 points per game, just behind Slovenia’s Luka Doncic, as well as in average minutes played at 35.9, behind Jordan’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
“The basket felt bigger at that point,” Clarkson said after the game. “My teammates were just finding me. Good looks, good screens, just starting to knock ‘em down.”
The outburst broke a see-saw battle in the first half as the duo of Kyle Anderson and Zhang Zhenlin towed the beleaguered Dragons, who were hobbled with a first quarter exit by injured former Houston Rockets center Zhou Qi.
“We just had two words in our board, we didn’t have x’s and o’s there. . . dig deep,” a relieved Philippine head coach Chot Reyes said, having won his second World Cup game on his second coaching stint.
“To end with a win, no greater feeling,” he remarked, adding that he is “stepping down” from the national team coaching job.
Three other nationals scored in double figures led by Anyang star Rhenz Abando with 14 points and five boards. Hiroshima’s Kai Sotto added 12 points and six rebounds while Hokkaido’s Dwight Ramos added 11 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
The Minnesota Timberwolves playmaker Anderson led China with 17 points, nine boards, and five assists while Zhang added 13 points, nine of which were scored in the first quarter.
“Clarkson gave them a lot of inside courage. That’s something you transfer to the group, with the way he’s playing, with the way he’s fighting,” commented China head coach Aleksandsr Đorđević, who previously routed the Philippines in the 2019 Worlds as head coach of Serbia.
The Philippines’ Paris Olympics basketball bid did not also end as the 1-4 Gilas snatched a ticket in the 2024 OQT after placing at second place in Group M and 24th overall, edging 2-3 Mexico, who fell short by placing third in Group N.
PHILIPPINES 96 – Clarkson 34, Abando 14, Sotto 12, Ramos 11, Fajardo 9, Pogoy 7, Edu 5, Thompson 4, Aguilar 0, Ravena 0.
CHINA 75 – Anderson 17, Zhang 13, Zhao R. 12, Hu M. 12, Hu J. 10, Zhu 5, Zhou Q. 2, Cui 2, Fu 2, Zhao J. 0.
Quarter scores: 16-16, 39-40, 73-50, 96-75.