The Smart Gilas Pilipinas took off to a sluggish start but managed to shake off a pesky Saudi Arabia side, 78-66, in an interesting first day of the 27th Fiba Asia Men’s Championships at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The favorites of this tournament that offers three slots to the 2014 Fiba Basketball World Cup in Spain had great starts except for one.
South Korea leaned on a near-flawless game by forward Joo-sung Kim to pull off a 63-59 upset over defending champion China in Group C action.
Kim went six-of-seven from the field, hitting all of his six shots from the two-point area, en route to a team-high 15 points.
Two-time Asian champions Iran, meanwhile, led the opening day winners with a merciless 115-25 rout over the grieving Malaysian team in Group C.
NBA player Hamed Haddadi scored 21 points on top of eight rebounds for Iran. Malaysia is still reeling from the death of team mainstay Jacky Ng Kiat Kee, who passed away from an apparent heart attack during an invitational game in China held just days before this competition.
Chinese Taipei downed Jordan, 91-87, in a duel between two prospective rivals of the Gilas in Group A behind the 27-point performance of Lin Chih-chieh and the double-double offing (18 points, 11 rebounds) of naturalized player Quincy Davis.
Qatar also emerged victorious after it edged Japan, 75-74, thanks to the clutch playmaking of former NBA veteran Jarvis Hayes, who scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth period that helped overhaul a 53-61 deficit at the end of the third canto.
Larry Fonacier and LA Tenorio led Gilas Pilipinas with 12 points each while Marcus Douthit added 10 points and 11 rebounds.