Phoenix relied on stifling defense to subdue Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX), 102-95, and claim its back-to-back wins on Sunday at the resumption of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 43 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Fuel Masters shifted to defense late in the game as the Road Warriors staged a rally from 17 points down. NLEX absorbed its first loss after a 2-0 start.
Matthew Wright, veteran Jeff Chan, RJ Jazul and rookie Jason Perkins led Phoenix’s scoring as they combined for 66 points to tie their victims, 2-1 and give coach Louie Alas his first winning streak.
“We were able to limit their perimeter guys and their production, that’s the key. All coaches know the strength of NLEX is offense so we limit its production,” said Phoenix coach Alas. “My general instruction to my players is to force NLEX guards to pass the ball instead of letting them to attack the basket.”
Wright topscored for Phoenix with 19 points and seven assists while Chan notched 18 points, 11 coming from the second canto. Jazul added 15 points while rookie Perkins made 14 points and eight rebounds.
Justin Chua also had a huge output for Phoenix with 12 points off the bench while Doug Kramer contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Jazul gave the Fuel Masters their biggest lead, 90-73, in the early part of the last frame before the Road Warriors closed the gap, 88-92, behind Larry Fonacier’s two charities in the last six-minute mark.
But Phoenix regained its composure to deny NLEX of the solo leadership.
Wright, Perkins and Kramer scored a basket each in the final three-minute mark, 102-92, to seal the win.
Larry Fonacier scored 22 points to lead the Road Warriors while NLEX’s celebrated rookie Kiefer Ravena, who averaged 19.5 points in their first two games, was limited to only eight points on 4-of-13 shooting from the field but finished with seven assists.
Despite falling into a 9-19 deficit in the first period, the Fuel Masters leaned on the troika of Chua, Jazul and Chan to snatch the lead, 44-37, in the middle of second the period. NLEX narrowed the gap to 54-53 at the halftime break.
PHOENIX 102 – Wright 19, Chan 18, Jazul 15, Perkins 14, Chua 12, Kramer 10, Revilla 6, Wilson 2, Intal 2, Dehesa 2, Eriobu 2, Alolino 0.
NLEX 95 – Fonacier 22, Tiongson 12, Miranda 10, Quinahan 10, Al-Hussaini 8, Ravena 8, Taulava 6, Alas 6, Baguio 4, Gotladera 3, Ighalo 3, Buenafe 3.
Quarters: 19-25, 54-53, 88-73, 102-95.