In a game that featured the traditional Asian powerhouse in basketball, China, against a Philippine team missing 10 of its top players, one guy stood out big time, Cleveland Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson, for a variety of reasons.
China, with two NBA players Houston Rockets' Zhou Qi and Dallas Mavericks' Ding Yanyuhang, and a future NBA prospect Abudushalamu Abudurexiti would have easily won this game against the Philippines. They are taller, faster, stronger and with dead-eye shooters, and the Philippine team are without their top guns, including former NBAer Andray Blatche, having been suspended from international competition for a few games because of that ugly brawl against Australia in the last FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifier.
China jumped out to a quick double digit lead in the first quarter. By the middle of the second quarter, Clarkson did his best LeBron James impersonation, playing both ends of the floor, plus barking out instructions and plays during their team timeouts, with the Philippine coach waiting for his turn. And of course, Clarkson suffered cramping in the fourth quarter, ala-LBJ. But of course.
Clarkson finally connected on this mid-range and 3-point shots at the end of the second quarter, stealing passes and disrupting dribbles, snaring rebounds and stealing rebounds from the bigger Chinese players. By halftime, his team is down by 4 points only. In the third quarter, Jordan continued with his hot shooting, scoring on an array of mid-range jumpers and back-to-back triples, After the third quarter, Clarkson have scored 28 points but his team is still down by 2 points.
Okay, by now, you've probably seen a pattern with Clarkson's offensive game. The Chinese coaching staff saw it too. They realized that Clarkson only shoots midranges and 3s so they adjusted and defended that. Close in on him as he comes near the 3-point line. And this is the frustrating part of Jordan Clarkson's game. He should have adjusted and drove to the basket. He is relatively quicker and stronger than the guys guarding him, Driving to the basket should have been his game plan from the start of the game. Unable to hoist any decent shot, his Philippine team went down by double digit again. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the Philippines?), Clarkson was subbed out as he suffered from cramping. This is when the gritty Philippine squad made a stunning 16-3 run and captured the lead with the time under 2 minutes. With seconds remaining, the Chinese squad is up 2 points. Clarkson subbed in, got the ball, dribble-dribble and threw up a contested mid-range shot. But in fairness to JC, he was clearly limping that time. The Philippine team still had a chance to win with a deep but wide open 3 from one of their guards but it hit the back iron. China won 82-80.
As for Clarkson, his team definitely need him in order for them to win the next games. In Asia, Clarkson's talent is clearly above everyone else. However, he need to adjust his game to what his team needs. He can't just rely on his jumpers. When it's on, it is clearly fun to watch, as what we've seen him do in some Cavs games. But when those jumpers stopped falling?