MANILA, Philippines—Gilas Pilipinas sorely missed the absence of Kai Sotto in a loss to Brazil on Saturday that ended its hopes of making the Paris Olympics.

Sotto was sidelined due to a bruised rib he suffered against Georgia on Thursday.

Without the 7-foot-3 center, Gilas just couldn’t provide enough resistance in the paint against Brazil, which was led by former NBA veteran Bruno Caboclo.

READ: Gilas struggles against Brazil in Fiba OQT loss

“We don’t want to make excuses but losing Kai was big for us,” said Cone after Gilas’ 71-60 loss. “It just took away our depth in the front line.”

The 6-foot-9 Caboclo, a first round pick by the Toronto Raptors in 2014, muscled his way to 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Gilas tried to fill the void by playing June Mar Fajardo extended minutes. The seven-time PBA MVP stepped up with 10 points and 11 rebounds but he could only do so much in 30 minutes of action.

READ: Tim Cone on Gilas’ Fiba OQT campaign: Now we know we can compete

“It [Sotto’s absence] forced June Mar Fajardo to overplay minutes and that all mushroomed from there but the bottom line is we just weren’t good enough tonight,” Cone said. “They played us with a really physical brand of basketball… We lacked in the big, we had to overplay our frontline.”

“More than anything, I think June Mar got really tired having to face 51 (Bruno Caboclo) and No. 6 (Cristiano Felicio). Those two guys banged on him and rotated on him and it was a tough battle for him being there by himself.”

Prior to the injury, Sotto averaged 11 points, four rebounds and 1.5 blocks in two games against Latvia and Georgia.

Sotto was among Gilas’ heroes in its stunning upset of world No. 6 Latvia on Thursday, posting 18 points, eight rebounds and a block in close to 33 minutes of play.

2024-07-07T11:09:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd