JAKARTA -- The Philippines came so close to upsetting powerhouse China, falling 82-80 in the men's basketball competition of the 18th Asian Games on Tuesday.
Paul Lee had a good look at a long 3-pointer with four seconds left, but the shot was slightly off, allowing the Chinese to escape with a very close win.
Jordan Clarkson debuted in style, scoring 28 points, while Christian Standhardinger added 18 to lead a strong effort by the Philippines in a game few gave them any chance of winning. Stanley Pringle had another good game, scoring 14 points to go with 2 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
The Philippines jumped to an early 5-0 lead on a 3 by Poy Erram and a floater by Clarkson. But China gradually took control, imposing their length and size on both ends of the court.
China's own NBA player, Houston Rockets backup center Zhou Qi, showed his class and range in the first period, sinking three 3-point shots as the Chinese built an early lead 19-9 lead with two minutes left.
China added to a 27-15 lead early in the second period, but Lee and Clarkson conspired to cut it to just six, 31-25, with a little over two minutes left in the half.
Stanley Pringle and Clarkson then hit a 3 each in the last minute as the Philippines kept it close at halftime, trailing 36-31.
Six straight points by China in the first two minutes of the third period restored their double-digit lead at 42-31, but Gilas kept it close thanks to an and-1 from Standhardinger and a long shot from Lee that cut it to 44-37.
A 3 by Clarkson brought the Philippines to within five with around six and a half minutes left. But China responded with a 5-0 to bring the lead back up to 10, 52-42. Standhardinger and Clarkson then teamed up for a 13-3 run of their own to tie it at 55 with 2:30 to go in the third.
China kept getting to the line though, hitting four free throws to regain the lead before settling for a slim 59-57 lead heading into the final period. Clarkson scored 16 of the Philippines' 26 third-quarter points, including four 3s.
China again tried to pull away early, going up 66-59 to start the fourth period. A 3 by Pringle cut it to 66-62, but China scored six straight to lead 72-62 with 6:20 to go. With Clarkson on the bench, the Philippines wouldn't go away quietly. A 3 by Erram and a drive by Pringle cut it to 74-71 with 4:30 remaining.
Lee then chose the perfect time to unleash one of his trademark long treys, tying it at 74 with 3:35 to go, before Standhardinger's two free throws finally gave the Philippines back the lead at 76-74.
After a China split, Pringle gathered a long rebound and hit a tough reverse over Zhou to make it 78-75 with 2:36 remaining.
Wang Zhelin made it 78-77 with 1:40 left, but another daredevil drive by Pringle restored the Philippines' three-point cushion. Zhou split his charities before Zhao Rui stole the ball and tied it at 80. A miss by Clarkson and a sorry miss by Standhardinger on the follow-up kept it tied, before Zhao gave the lead back to China with two free throws.
With Clarkson checked, Lee brought the ball up and launched way beyond the 3-point line. It was a shot he routinely makes in the PBA, but luck wasn't on the Philippines' side on this day.
"That's a shot he (Lee) hits all the time," Gabe Norwood noted. "It just didn't go in."
Zhou led China with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks.
Clarkson scored his first basket in a Gilas uniform on a floater in the lane at the 9:00 mark.
Zhou scored 11 points in the first quarter, just one less than the entire output of the Philippines.
China missed 16 of 39 free throw attempts.