SMART Gilas Pilipinas opened its campaign on a sour note as it lost to Suria’s Al-Jalaa, 89-76, in the opening of the 21st Dubai International Basketball Tournament.

The RP squad played without the services of former NBA player Jamal Sampson, who had an injured knee.

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As a result, the Syrians started the game hot, dropping 13 straight points in the opening quarter.

In the absence of Sampson, Filipino-American Marcio Lassiter, Mac Baracael, Japeth Aguilar and Jason Ballesteros tried to keep the Philippine squad afloat.

However, the presence of the three American imports and the size and height handicap of the Filipinos proved to be the focal point of the game.

Gilas coach Rajko Toroman hopes Sampson can suit up today as Gilas guns for its first win against Lebanon’s Champville squad.