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Egypt wins another one, but Patrick Gardner scores only two points in limited minutes

Egypt v Jordan: Group N - FIBA Basketball World Cup Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

Egypt won its second straight game at the FIBA World Cup — after 29 years without a win, beating Jordan, 85-69, Manila Thursday night in the Cup’s classification round. The win strengthened Egypt’s chances for an automatic Olympic bid.

Patrick Gardner, the Nets training camp invite who had scored 33 points in his last two games, saw limited minutes and wound up registering only two points. Meanwhile, former Net Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, playing on a Jordanian passport, did not sit in 40-minute contest, but scored only nine points on six shots, troubled by what was described as an ankle sprain.

The win was considered an upset. Egypt is No. 55 in FIBA rankings, Jordan No. 33. Rankings are determined by a classification system based on the outcome of international competition. By winning, Egypt also got closer to its goal: qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Egypt will automatically qualify if it comes out of Cup competition with the best record among the five African nations on hand. A win on Saturday over New Zealand would give Egypt a 3-2 record and virtually assure the bid.

Gardner started for the Pharaohs but got into early trouble with turnovers and was pulled by head coach Roy Rana. Gardner played 14 minutes total, going 1-of-3 overall, including 0-2 from deep. He recorded two boards and one assist as well as three turnovers.

Assem Marei, the veteran Egyptian big who’s been mentoring Gardner, had an impressive 20-point, 14-rebound performance, and Ehab Amin, Egypt’s point guard, added 20 points, seven boards, and four assists. One of Marei’s highlights was an over-the-shoulde pass to Gardner underneath which caused a FIBA TV analyst to take note of Gardner’s “impressive” debut in the international game.

The game was a back-and-forth contest with Egypt going up by 14 early, only to have Jordan come back and tie the game at 66 in the fourth. But Jordan made a series of unforced errors, allowing Egypt to go on an 7-0 run that determined the outcome.

Hollis-Jefferson who was a popular Nets player had become the darling of the World Cup crowds in Manila who thought he looked a lot like — and even played a little like — Kobe Bryant. In Jordan’s first two games, RHJ scored 24 and 39, the latter featuring a buzzer-beating jump shot to send the game into OT. That further cemented the Kobe image in the crowd’s mind as they chanted, “Kobe, Kobe.”

But by the time the Jordanians got to play Team USA, the big minutes were starting to catch up with him. He scored 20 in that game on 6-of-16 shooting, but twisted his ankle. On Thursday, FIBA TV announcers noted that he seemed to have slowed down, blaming the big load he had taken on. In fact, Egypt’s national team coach Roy Rana said post-game that Hollis-Jefferson was playing with “a really bad ankle sprain.”

Egypt’s game against New Zealand will start early Saturday morning. Game time is 4:45 a.m. ET.