MANILA — Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes admitted on Saturday that the absence of Jordan Clarkson in the crucial stretch towards the end of regulation played a significant role in the Nationals’ initial match debacle against the Dominican Republic.

The star player from the Utah Jazz was called for two quick fouls, with the second resulting in his ejection with slightly over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter with Gilas trailing but a scant three points adrift after team DR bombed away with two successive triples.

Compounded by a five-second inbound violation after that, Gilas never recovered from there and deprived of their primary offensive force, Gilas struggled against the Dominicans led by Karl Anthony-Towns, ultimately falling 87-81.

Reyes mentioned that, given the circumstances, the foul on Clarkson could have been treated more leniently, but he chose not to contest it.

“Discussing Clarkson’s fouling out might lead to fines, but it’s evident to everyone present. With our understanding of basketball, we realize it could have been allowed to slide,” remarked the Gilas coach.

The national team was trailing by a mere 79-76 with over three minutes left before Clarkson was forced to leave the court.

“Regrettably, Jordan’s disqualification dealt us a major setback,” lamented Reyes.

Clarkson visibly expressed his frustration as he sat on the sidelines after his ejection. Nevertheless, he did engage with the media post-game.

“Certain calls didn’t go our way, but that’s part of the game,” he acknowledged.

Clarkson also conveyed his appreciation to the fans who rallied behind them at the Philippine Arena. He admitted feeling disappointed about falling short in the end.

“It’s quite disheartening that we couldn’t secure the victory. Some things didn’t go our way in the closing moments,” he admitted.

Clarkson tallied the game’s highest score with 28 points, albeit on a 9-of-24 shooting performance, before fouling out. He also contributed seven rebounds and seven assists, yet he was also accountable for eight of the Philippines’ 19 turnovers during the game. (ai/mnm)