MANILA, Philippines – Lebanon denied Jordan Clarkson a win in his FIBA debut as it eked out an 85-81 victory over Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut.
The NBA star churned out 27 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds, but the Filipinos fizzled out down the stretch and allowed Wael Arakji to take the Lebanese home with his endgame heroics.
Arakji, the reigning FIBA Asia Cup MVP, powered the Cedars with 24 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. (READ: Clarkson denied in FIBA debut as Lebanon escapes Gilas Pilipinas in Beirut)
Gilas Pilipinas has brought in the cavalry in a bid to get back on track in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Expectations are high for the Filipino-American NBA standout, who will debut for the national team in a FIBA game as a naturalized player.
Clarkson last suited up for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games, where he averaged 26 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists to power the team to a fifth-place finish.
Meanwhile, Sotto returns to national team duty as he looks to showcase his vastly improved skillset after completing his rookie season for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League in Australia.
The 7-foot-3 big man normed 9.2 points and 6 rebounds in his first five games with Gilas Pilipinas, but Sotto will be relied on to produce bigger numbers against a formidable Lebanese side that won silver in the FIBA Asia Cup.
Led by Wael Arakji, Lebanon beat the Philippines in the group stage of the Asia Cup and went on to reach the final, where it lost by just two points against defending champion Australia.
Arakji poses a big problem to the Filipinos as the newly minted “Best Point Guard in Asia” as he took home the MVP honors in the Asia Cup with averages of 26 points, 4 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 steals.
But Arakji is not the only player that the Philippines should look out for, with Lebanon also banking on Ali Haidar and naturalized big man Jonathan Arledge.
Game time is 2 am.