The opening game between the Philippines and Dominican Republic in the 2023 FIBA World Cup will have been frustrating for Filipino fans. 

The 86-81 scoreline doesn’t quite show how close the game was throughout, with the Philippines holding leads multiple times throughout the game, including a 72-69 advantage in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for Gilas Pilipinas, a frustrating final 4:20 of the game saw things unravel for the hosts.

It started off with Jordan Clarkson committing a five second violation while inbounding after a make from the Dominican Republic. That led to a possession that ended with free throws that the Dominicans missed with 3:50 left.

Then, Clarkson tried to get free to get a shot off in the paint, but after getting locked down at the top of the key, he tried to force a shot instead of passing the ball, which led to his fifth and final foul.

June Mar Fajardo was then able to cut the lead to 81-78 after baiting Karl-Anthony Towns into committing a shooting foul, and after getting the ball back Gilas managed to get another pair of free throws, that they split to make it 81-79.

Then, in a play that angered a number of fans in the stands, it looked like Fajardo got a good contest on a drive, but the referees called the and-one anyway and that allowed the Dominicans to push the lead to 84-79.

Without Clarkson’s ability to penetrate the opposing defense, the hosts were only able to score one more basket after the Dominicans locked down the paint, which led to the final score of 87-81.

Clarkson finished as the game’s leading scorer with 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists on 9 of 24 shooting. He went 1 of 6 from beyond the arc but 9 of 11 from the free throw line.

Fajardo finished with a solid 16 points and seven rebounds while making all five of his field goal attempts and going 6 of 8 from the charity stripe. He also put on an admirable job of being the big body to challenge Towns.

Towns was the best player for the Dominicans, finishing at 26 of 10 but only shooting 5 of 16 from the floor. He made up for it by going 15 of 16 on his free throws.

It was an unfortunate end to an otherwise good effort against a heavily-favored Dominican Republic team.  However, there are few moral victories to be won in a tournament such as this. Gilas Pilipinas will want to take a win against Angola in their next match to stay in the hunt.