NLEX broke Meralco’s defenses time and again to score a 105-99 victory and grab the provisional lead in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Bolts’ coach Norman Black had said prior to the game they need to bring out their best on defense against the offensive-oriented Road Warriors.
The Bolts did show their best which was unfortunately not enough to contain the Road Warriors’ offensive onslaught, more so the foursome of import Olu Ashaolu, Kenneth Ighalo, Larry Fonacier, and Kiefer Ravena.
The four alternated on offense as the Road Warriors picked up their second straight win after holding off Fuel Masters, 123-116 a few days back, and gained the lead in the provisional standings.
The Bolts though gave the Road Warriors a big scare before finally tumbling to their first loss in two games.
The Bolts wove a determined fightback behind Allen Durham, Raymond Almazan and Baser Amer to threaten the Road Warriors at 100-96 with 1:13 left, before Jericho Cruz translated a perfect Ravena feed into a big basket to bail NLEX out of trouble, 102-96.
Ravena then scored a basket of his own on a goal tending violation, while Ashaolu canned two freethrows to seal the win for NLEX, 105-96, 24 seconds left.
It was a veritable battle between offensive and defensive teams in the early goings, but the Bolts apparently caught the Road Warriors napping on their defense in the second quarter.
Trailing 42-33, the Bolts cut loose with nine straight points highlighted by Baser Amer’s triple to tie the count at 42-all, but Larry Fonancier countered with back-to-back triples as NLEX kept itself on top, 48-44, before outscoring the Bolts further, 7-2, to take the half, 55-46.
Meanwhile, Calvin Abueva’s hope for a return in the PBA loop looks promising after the Phoenix forward’s initial talks with league commissioner Willie Marcial.
“Nag-initial talks lang kami ni Calvin. Nag-usap kami, tignan natin kung papano. Pagbalik ko galing Dubai mag-uusap ulit kami," said Marcial.
Marcial said he had given Abueva the go-signal to join Phoenix in practice alone, and that it is no guarantee yet he could play already for his mother team.
"Sinabi niya (Abueva) sa akin, 'Comm, tumataba na ako, baka pwede (mag-practice sa Phoenix).' Sabi ko 'O, sige, pwede ka nang mag-practice pero hindi ka pa pwede sa tuneup, practice ka lang, pakundisyon ka,” said Marcial.
"Pero hindi porke't pinag-practice kita, e ‘yan ay garantiya na makakabalik ka na, mahaba pang usapan yan,” added Marcial.
The PBA indefinitely suspended Abueva aside from slapping him with a P70,000 in fines after a pair of transgressions, including clothesline tackle on Talk ‘N Text import Terrence Jones during a game in the last Commissioner’s Cup. Abueva was also caught sending obscene hand gestures to a lady fan during a game versus Blackwater .
Abueva vowed to keep his cool once given the chance to play again the PBA.
NLEX (105) - Quinahan 19, Ashaolu 17, Ravena 15, Ighalo 15, Fonacier 11, Cruz 10, Galanza 9, Paniamogan 5, Miranda 2, Baguio 2, Soyud 0, Lao 0, Paredes 0, Rios 0.
Meralco (99) - Durham 32, Almazan 17, Amer 15, Caram 8, Newsome 7, Salva 6, Quinto 5, Hugnatan 5, Faundo 2, Pinto 2, Tolomia 0, Jackson 0, De Ocampo 0.
Quarterscores: 28-25, 55-46, 83-68, 105-99.