In a virtual repeat of their previous match, Gilas Pilipinas waged a tough fight throughout but sagged at the finish and bowed down to Iran, 70-78, in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers Monday night at the MOA Arena.
It was a crucial loss that dropped Team Phl down to fourth place going into the final window of the FIBAWC eliminator.
Worse, the Nationals are playing their last two games on foreign soil versus Qatar and Kazakhstan.
Australia and Iran stayed first and second in Group F and Japan moved past the Philippines following an 86-70 victory over Kazakhstan at home earlier in the day.
"We still lacked maturity. We're not cohesive as we want to be at this point. But the guys really tried their best," said national team coach Yeng Guiao.
The Nationals led most of the way and even enjoyed an eight-point spread at 60-52 early in the fourth quarter only to flounder at the finish.
They were still ahead at 79-69 with 1:04 left but allowed the Iranians to unleash a riproaring 9-0 finish.
And thus Gilas has found itself in a deeper bind.
Iran pulled off a virtual the same victory in their earlier matchup back in Tehran.
Marcio Lassiter and Christian Standhardinger fired 11 apiece, and the Nationals enjoyed a better field-goal shooting percentage as they took the half at 39-35.
Team Phl enjoyed the lead most of the way in the opening half, posting a number of six-point spreads but couldn't get a bigger lead on crucial turnovers.
The Nationals were ahead at 20-14 before back-to-back errors allowed the Iranians to draw within one, 19-20, at the end of the opening period.
Iran closed the first frame with a buzzer-beating trey by Mohammad Jamshidi following a steal on an errant pass by Matthew Wright to Beau Belga. (SB)