The NLEX Road Warriors snapped their two-game losing skid after defeating the Meralco Bolts, 104-99, in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup 2016 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday.
The Road Warriors improved their record to three wins and three losses while the leading team Bolts dropped to 5-2.
NLEX relied on the prowess of import Al Thornton, who notched a total of 38 points via 13-out-of-20 shooting performance plus 12 boards.
Meralco dominated the opening frame, 31-24, behind veteran Jimmy Alapag’s eight points.
The Bolts continued to blaze through the defense of the Road Warriors in the second period with backcourt stars Alapag and Baser Amer leading the charge, to establish a 57-50 advantage at the break.
However, NLEX returned to the game hungrier after the halftime interlude with a three-point shot by Thornton tying the game at 73-all with 2:12 left in the third quarter.
The Road Warriors notched a total of 31 points in the pivotal third canto, edging Meralco’s 22 points. NLEX grabbed the lead, 81-79, going into the final period.
The Road Warriors’ big man Asi Taulava sank a jumper from the top of the key at the 6:33 mark of the fourth canto to give his team a 95-83 edge over the Bolts.
Meralco managed to close the gap, 99-102, with 22.4 seconds remaining following a trey by Jared Dillinger.
But NLEX foiled all succeeding attempts of Meralco to recover to emerge victorious at the final buzzer.
Rookie guard Garvo Lanete contributed 14 points in the victory while teammate Kevin Alas chipped in 10 points and two assists.
Meanwhile, Arinze Onuaku led the Bolts with 16 points and 18 rebounds while Amer and Dillinger posted 14 points each.
Gilas star Alapag had 11 points, the majority of which were posted in the first quarter, while Chris Newsome and John Ferriols contributed a combined output of 20 markers.
“It was our defense that gave us this win. I appreciate the effort of my players. I’m happy to get this win and get back to the winning column,” NLEX head coach Boyet Fernandez said during the postmatch news conference.
He added that he is delighted that Thornton is slowly reverting back to his normal game.
With the win, NLEX is now in a four-way tie in the standings with the Blackwater Elite, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and the Mahindra Enforcers.