For now, Gilas Pilipinas can breathe a sigh of relief.
All five other Asian teams competing in the Fiba World Cup lost their opening matches, keeping the race for the Summer Olympic Games wide open.
China was the latest team to fall on Saturday, finding itself on the nasty end of a 105-63 blowout at the hands of Serbia at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We are happy that we won the game in the end,” said Serbian standout Bogdan Bogdanovis, of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “That’s what is most important. The first games are always tough and difficult but we have many great guys. It’s gonna harder but easier on condition-wise.”
“This is how we play. I like the way we played especially the young guys, they bring a lot of energy. I’m happy how we played but this is just the first game,” he added.
Gilas Pilipinas’ 87-81 loss to the Dominican Republic on opening night remains the closest result among the teams jockeying for the continental quota as the other five nations lost by an average of 32.2 points.
Only the highest-placed team per continent will get free tickets to the Paris Olympics slated next year.
Greece and Thanasis Antetokounmpo held off naturalized Jordan, who unveiled naturalized forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 92-71. Brazil, meanwhile, thrashed perennial Gilas tormentor Iran, 100-59 in the games on Saturday.
Undermanned Latvia whipped Asia Cup Most Valuable Player Wael Arakji and Lebanon, 109-70, while cohost Japan had very few answers to Germany, 81-63, in the matches also last Friday.
Fiba will turn to the point difference in games in the event of a tie. Such a system helped Iran to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics back in 2019.
Gilas Pilipinas will face Angola on Sunday before going up against Italy, which is Group A’s highest-ranked squad.
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