Towns-led Dominican Republic beats Gilas Pilipinas in historic FIBA WC 2023 opener

CLOSE DEFEAT. Jordan Clarkson and Gilas Pilipinas fell short of an upset as a Karl Anthony Towns-led Dominican Republic ran away with a hard-fought victory. PHOTO: FIBA
MANILA, Philippines – Heartbreak in Bulacan.
The Philippines set a new gate attendance record for a FIBA World Cup game but failed to live with the expectations of its people, famously known for its religious love of basketball.
Gusty to defend its home, the embattled Gilas Pilipinas side still absorbed a stinging 87-81 loss to the Dominican Republic in front of a 38,115 roaring crowd inside the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan on Friday night, August 25, as the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup officially began.
The record crowd, mostly Filipinos, beat the previous mark of 32,616 tallied during the 1994 FIBA World Championship finals between the United States of America and Russia in Canada.
Sadly, they witnessed how their national team fought back and forth but lost steam in the late stretch of the fourth quarter.
Jordan Clarkson, the Gilas naturalized player, graduated from the seesaw game with his fifth personal after Victor Liz's defense forced him to commit an offensive foul with 3:32 left in the final canto.
Without their focal point of offense, the Filipino five lost track of the game while the visitors took advantage to claim the Dominican Republic's first victory in Group A.
The 23rd-ranked Dominicans got a double-double from Minnesota Timberwolves big man Karl Anthony Towns, who finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds. KAT compensated for his poor 5/16 shooting with an almost flawless 15/16 free throws (FTs).
Liz added 18 markers and six boards, while Andres Feliz listed 12, eight assists, and six rebounds.
Dominican Republic will deal with fellow opening day winner Italy on Sunday, August 27, at 4 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Italy beat Angola, 86-67, led by Simone Fontecchio with 19 points and five boards.
Gilas, on the other hand, will face Angola at 8 p.m. after the Dominican Republic and Italy match at the same venue.
Chot Reyes and his wards are in a must-win situation against the Angolans to boost their chances of reaching the second round to qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
This year's FIBA Basketball World Cup serves as a qualifying stage for the 2024 multisport festivities in the French capital, with the top two teams from America and Europe, and the best-performing squad in each of Asia, Oceania, and Africa joining host France in the quadrennial showpiece directly.
It is payback time for Gilas when the Philippines face Angola as the latter broke the heart of the Filipinos four years ago in Foshan, China in an overtime drama, 84-81.
Backed by the ever-supportive Filipino hopefuls, the nationals would want to conquer the Angola fixture, which most assumed was the lightest game they would have in the group stages.

Visiting Dominican Republic outplays Gilas in Q4

FEARLESS. Victor Liz scored an and-one against the defense of June Mar Fajardo in this play in the fourth quarter of Gilas Pilipinas-Dominican Republic match. PHOTO: FIBA
Gilas gave Towns and his company a run for their money as neither side took a lead of more than six points before the Dominican Republic pulled away late in the fourth, 86-79.
The home team opened the payoff period with back-to-back baskets from June Mar Fajardo and Clarkson to take a 68-66 lead, as the Philippines remained in control for the next few minutes.
Feliz hit a triple to knot the final period at 72-all before Antonio Pena knocked down another trey for a 75-72 advantage for the Dominican Republic.
Fajardo, the most efficient Gilas player, kept the nationals at par with the Dominicans with his pair of free throws and a layup from a Scottie Thompson assist, 77-76, with 4:41 to go. JMF, the six-time Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Most Valuable Player, poured 16 points on a perfect 5-of-5 field goals (FGs) and hauled seven rebounds for a +21 efficiency.
A mismatch in the next play resulted in Thompson fouling a bigger Towns, and the three-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star made him pay by sinking his two charities to push their lead to three, 79-76.
Since the 4:20 mark, both teams struggled to convert offensively, but it was clear the Dominicans had momentum on their side.
With less than four minutes to play, Clarkson tried to get past the defense of Liz only for the referee to call for an offensive foul. It was his fifth, and Gilas must play without him until the final buzzer sounded.
The Utah Jazz starter last NBA season registered 28 points laced with seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block. However, he shot measly in the field with a 9/24 clip and owned eight of Gilas' 19 turnovers.
Clarkson's departure took a toll on the Philippines offensively while Nestor Garcia's troops became more confident attacking the basket with Gilas on penalty.
In a press conference, Reyes shared he did not challenge the call against JC, quoting it was an easy let-go. Yet, said Clarkson's exit is 'a big blow' to Gilas. "Unfortunately, the disqualification of Jordan was a big blow to us," Reyes told the media.
AJ Edu drew a foul against Pena and split his charities for Gilas to come within two, 81-79, with 1:54 remaining.
Fulfilling his role as captain, Liz answered back with a fearless drive to the basket for an and-one bucket against Fajardo. Unfortunately, he was subbed out due to his bad fall. Lester Quiñones, the 2023 NBA G League Most Improved Player, stepped in the lane for him but missed.
Gilas couldn't do anything from there as the Dominican Republic ran away with a hard-fought win.
The defeat over the Dominicans is the sixth straight loss of the nationals dating back to 2019 when they finished dead last in the 32-team meet with a humiliating 0-5 slate.
The first quarter ended in favor of the Dominican Republic, 22-18, with Towns leading the charge with seven points.
After a quiet four-point first period, Clarkson exploded for 14 in the second quarter and the reason why Gilas and the Dominicans were tied at 42-all when the opening 20 minutes expired.
Dropping 11 of his 26 in the third period, Towns towed the Dominicans to a 66-64 advantage entering the fourth frame. In that frame, Dwight Ramos scored eight of his 13 markers. Ramos is Gilas' third double-digit scorer for the Philippines in a losing effort.

What Cost Gilas the Game?

FRUSTRATED. With 3:32 to go, Jordan Clarkson fouled out from the game and could only watch his side lose their opening day fixture against the Dominican Republic. PHOTO: FIBA
Gilas shot better than Dominican Republic from the inside, beyond the arc, and charity lane. The Philippines shot 48% of its FGs in contrast to the Dominican's 41%. Freethrows-wise, the Filipinos only missed six attempts, 21/27, while Dominicana finished with 23/34. Now, some will ask, how in the world did they lose the tight ball game? There are two statistical figures to look at: offensive boards and turnovers.
Garcia's Dominican Republic crashed the glass in offensive rebounds with a staggering 17-3 line. They translated those to 15 second chance points. The Dominicans did a good job securing offensive rebounds when their shots weren't falling, as this gets them more opportunities to regroup and find easier ways to score.
Moreover, Gilas' carelessness with the ball handed Towns and friends 19 turnovers to work with. Bad for the Philippines, they turned those mistakes into 26 turnover points. To be fair, Dominicana had 12 TOs themselves, which Gilas converted to 14 TO points.
To sum it up, the Dominican Republic had a superior athletic edge than the Philippines. Their players maximized this advantage by helping the bigs rebound the ball. They also exploited Gilas for not taking care of the basketball, forcing turnovers that favored them.

Why Towns Had a Bad Shooting Night?

POOR SHOOTING NIGHT. Credits to the defense Gilas Pilipinas played, Karl Anthony Towns only sank five of his 16 field goal attempts. PHOTO: FIBA
Believe it or not but Towns had a hard time scoring his own buckets. On paper, he finished with 26 points but 15 of those were from the charity stripe. Field goals alone, he only made five of his 16 attempts equivalent to 31.25% shooting. Ironically, he once proclaimed himself the 'best big man shooter ever' without stats to back his claim.
Towns struggled to find open looks and forced shots in some instances against the defense laid by the Gilas bigs and the rest. He admitted this himself.
"I wasn't making shots today, it's weird I've been making shots a lot," Towns shared. "My teammates are amazing set me up in great positions, I've been a great slasher, I just utilized another part of my game and worked tremendously well."
Fajardo, Edu, Japeth Aguilar, and Kai Sotto took turns to try and contain the former University of Kentucky Wildcats. Despite him scoring 26, it is safe to say, they neutralized him beyond expected.
Dominican Republic mentor Garcia attested to Towns' struggles over the Gilas towers himself.
"The big guys of Philippines, I think that they are very smart especially (since) they made too much effort trying to stop Karl Towns. Karl, his game is a lot to learn," Garcia said. "I think they played physical. They tried to contain him, they deny I think every offensive rebound…He took three offensive rebounds. It was hard for him to play against the big guys of Philippines…They played with too much effort trying to contain him." he added.
Japan B.League-bound Edu was the most praised among his tall compatriots with the defense he posed against Towns. Playing as KAT's primary defender, the 23-year-old limited the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year to a 3/11 shooting (27%).
When asked about Edu's D against him, Towns called the Toyama Grouses-commit center a 'fantastic player'.
"He's a fantastic player, he's an ultra competitor. I love the competition he brought tonight, it makes me better," Towns said.
The University of Toledo product chipped in seven points from 3/3 FGs taken, grabbed five rebounds, and had two blocked shots. Certainly, he left a lasting impression about the things Filipinos should expect from him.
Still regarded as one of the best big men in the NBA, Towns won the game for the Dominicans but Edu and Gilas didn't make it easy for the self-proclaimed best-shooting big man.

Last Modified: 2024-Jul-16 12.07 +0800