MANILA – Gilas Pilipinas went down fighting, 70-80, at the hands of a heftier and sweet shooting Angola side, absorbing in the process its second straight loss in the 2023 FIBA World Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Sunday.

The Nationals were in the thick of things in the first half where they only trailed by three points, 33-36, at halftime.

They even pulled even at 45-all 4:15 left in the third canto and were even a point adrift at 52-53 before all hell broke loose in favor of the Angolans.

Angola needed but three successive treys that pushed them ahead by 11 points at 66-55 into the final six minutes of play before mounting its biggest lead at 16 points, 73-57.

Gilas tried to turn the game around by dropping a 10-0 blast capped by two free throws from Kai Sotto.

The 10-0 run pulled Gilas Pilipinas threateningly close at five, 68-73. a minute left in the ball game.

However, this proved as the Nationals last stand as Angola found the range anew by dropping yet another three-point dagger courtesy of pointguard Gerson Da Silva Domingos that gave Angola a comfortable eight point lead, 75-68, into the dying minutes of play.

Yet again, the next assignment for Gilas Pilipinas could even be a much fiercer opponent.

The Nationals will be facing World No. 10 Italy on Tuesday, 29th of August 2023.

Italy is expected to go all out after absorbing an upset loss at the hands of the Dominican Republic, 87-82, in their Group A clash earlier in the day.

The Dominican Republic now sports a 2-0 win-loss record in Group A while Italy slid to 1-1 in a share of the second spot with Angola.

In what could be a do-or-die clash for a spot in the next round, Italy’s mentor Luigi Datome said there will be no time to lament their loss to Dominican Republic as they need a quick turnaround against Gilas Pilipinas which is similarly determined to break the win column.

“Yes well, at this stage, you know, there’s no time for depression, no time for euphoria.” Datome said after the game.

“We’re old enough, everybody [already] went through important games, everybody played against [a] tough home court. [It’s] gonna be exciting, I think, [it’s] gonna be a nice atmosphere and all the players love to play in a nice atmosphere.” he added.

Just like against the Dominican Republic, where Italy clashed with Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, there will be an NBA-caliber challenge when they face the Philippines in the form of Jordan Clarkson.

While Datome said there will be an emphasis on stopping the Utah Jazz guard, they also will not be caught over defending him, with the rest of the team also capable of hurting the Italians.

“Of course, the Philippines, like the Dominican Republic, have a single great player and all around them there’s a good team. So for sure, it’s very important to limit this player, you cannot stop them, they’re so good, you can only limit them with teamwork and [also] pay attention to the others because they are all good players,” he said.

“[We’ll] have a game plan, try to execute it, stick with it and at the end of the day, we try to do the same thing.”

Despite the loss, however, the Philippines is still in contention for a spot in the next round if the Nationals would manage to overcome Italy on Tuesday, August 29.

On the same day, the Dominican Republic faces Angola in their final group stage match also on Tuesday. (ai/mnm)