The TNT KaTropa came up short against the Liaoning Flying Leopards, 96-91, at East Asia Super League’s Terrific 12 tournament opener in Macau, China.

Lance Stephenson showed out in his debut for the 2018 Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) titlists Liaoning squad with 31 points to go with eight assists, off an efficient 10-for-20 shooting from the field.

With KaTropa imports McKenzie Moore and KJ McDaniels doing the heavy lifting, the most recent Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) runners-up played catch-up for most of the game and were within striking distance up until the end. However, they had little answer for Stephenson and Tunisian center Salah Mejri.

The Flying Leopards played without All-Star guards Guo Ailun and Zhao Jiwei, as the duo did not travel with the team to Macau a little over a week removed from their FIBA World Cup campaign with the Chinese national team.

One of the most anticipated matchups in the tournament was supposed to be TNT’s Jayson Castro and Liaoning’s Guo, who are widely regarded as the past and the present ‘Best Point Guard in Asia’, respectively.

In the import dominated game, Mejri complemented Stephenson with 22 points for the Flying Leopards, while forwards He Tianju and Cong Mingchen added 10 apiece.

Moore and McDaniels had 41 and 32 points each to lead TNT in the loss. No local player scored in double-figures for KaTropa.

TNT KaTropa takes a day off tomorrow, and resumes action against Niigata Albirex BB at 1500H (+8 GMT) on Thursday, September 19 at the Tap Seac Multi-sports Pavilion in Macau, China SAR.

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