NLEX-SCTEX held its own for the most part before bowing to defending champions Shanghai Sharks, 79-65, in the Merlion Cup at the OCBC Arena in Singapore on Thursday.
It was a tight match early in the fourth period, before the Chinese squad, which is playing without star and former NBA player Jimmer Fredette, turned a 63-gridlock into a breakaway.
NLEX-SCTEX reeled to 0-2 record in Group A, putting itself on the brink of elimination in the seven-team tournament.
Oping Sumalinog paced the team with 21 points, while Jason Perkins had 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Import Maurice Shaw had an underwhelming outing with six points. Pamboy Raymundo also continued to struggle, making only 2-of-16 attempts from the field for four points.
The match looked like it would be decided only in the final seconds until the Philippine team committed one turnover after another.
This allowed the Sharks to mount a run and take a 76-63 advantage they never relinquished.
Luo Hanchen led Shanghai with 20 points.
NLEX-SCTEX will face Satria Muda Pertamina of Indonesia on Friday.
NLEX-SCTEX (65) - Sumalinog 21, Perkins 17, Belencion 8, Shaw 6, Batino 5, Raymundo 4, Vitug 2, Villarias 2, Cahilig 0, Arboleda 0.
Shanghai (79) - Luo HC 20, Dong 17, Luo Z 14, Cai 13, Lu 13, Zhai 2, Zhang 0, Shi 0, Tseng 0.
Quarterscores: 23-14, 42-40, 53-57, 65-79.