It was a game of runs between the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters and the NLEX Road Warriors with both teams managing to build a double-digit lead in the game. However, the undefeated squad displayed more poise in the end game as they held off NLEX for an 83-82 victory, Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The best start of the young franchise stretches on as they have won their first five games of the 2019 Philippine Cup.
It was only a one-point game with 56 seconds remaining in the game as Phoenix Pulse's lead was cut down with a corner triple from Philip Paniamogan, 83-82. The Fuel Masters had multiple tries to put it away but they could not come up with a basket in the final minute. A mad scramble for the loose ball allowed the Road Warriors to get possession with only 2.3 seconds left.
JR Quiñahan went to Bong Galanza to try and win the game but his three-point attempt was blocked by Calvin Abueva as time expired.
Matthew Wright was the Best Player of the Game with 17 points, five rebounds, and six assists. The sweet shooter scored seven of the last nine points for the Fuel Masters in the final period.
"5-0 is just a testament to how hard our entire team has worked this conference, from the players to the coaches to the staff," said Wright who had a special guest in the game as his mother was in attendance. "My mother worked so hard to raise me and all I want to do is make her proud."
Backing up Wright were bruise brothers Abueva and Jason Perkins who had twin double-doubles once again. Perkins finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Abueva had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
NLEX drops to two wins against four losses in the conference.
With NLEX committing eight turnovers in the first quarter, the Fuel Masters got the jump on them as they built a double-digit lead 24-12 after the first 12 minutes. The entire lead was brought about by the points off turnovers scored by the Fuel Masters as they had a 12-0 edge against the Road Warriors in the opener.
The Fuel Masters stretched their advantage to as many as 17 points in the second quarter, 32-15, with a Justin Chua basket at the 9:02 mark. However, NLEX slowly chipped away at their deficit. NLEX banked on three-point conversions from Galanza, JP Erram, and JR Quiñahan as they inched within a point of the Fuel Masters, 45-44, heading into the halftime break.
After a forgettable first quarter, NLEX rebounded with 32 points in the second with the bench powering their offense. Erram, Galanza, and Cyrus Baguio combined for 23 first half points after not scoring a single marker in the first period.
After making six triples in the opening half, NLEX retained their hot-shooting in the third period as they went on a 12-0 lead to build a 56-45 lead with even more triples from Erram and Larry Fonacier.
Feeling that the game was slowly slipping away from them, the Fuel Masters doubled up on the effort department as they forced turnovers and outworked the Road Warriors to get offensive rebounds. Abueva injected much needed life into the Fuel Masters' attack as he dropped eight points in the period. Phoenix Pulse tied the count at 63-all off a basket from Ron Dennison but the Road Warriors were able to rebuild a three-point lead, 70-67, at the end of three.
After not scoring on a single triple in the first three periods, Wright finally gave the Fuel Masters one as he tied the count at 77-all with four minutes remaining in the game.
Quiñahan led the attack for NLEX with 14 points while Erram picked up a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
PHOENIX 83 - Wright 17, Perkins 14, Abueva 13, Mendoza 8, Jazul 8, Chua 6, Mallari 6, Revilla 3, Kramer 2, Marcelo 2, Napoles 2, Dennison 2, Gamboa 0.
NLEX 82 - Quinahan 14, Galanza 12, Erram 11, Fonacier 9, Baguio 9, Lao 8, Ighalo 6, Porter 6, Paniamogan 5, Taulava 2, Tiongson 0, Magat 0, Tallo 0.
Quarter scores: 24-12, 45-44, 67-70, 83-82.
Kevin Alas missed out on his friendly duel with his father Louie Alas, head coach of the Phoenix Fuel Masters, where the winner ends up treating the family to dinner. Instead, he was at home preparing for his second ACL surgery, scheduled for Saturday.
Rookie Kyles Lao, the 29th pick overall of the 2018 PBA Draft, was activated by the Road Warriors in lieu of Alas. He scored his first basket with 4:02 left in the second period 41-30 to cut the Road Warriors' deficit 41-30.
Phoenix Pulse is not one of the top three-point shooting teams in the league with only six makes per contest at 27%. However, it was especially bad against NLEX as they failed to make a single triple in the first half. They finished 1 of 18 from deep but made up for it by dominating the shaded area, winning 52-30 in inside points and 55 to 39 in total rebounds.
Phoenix vs Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on February 10 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
NLEX vs San Miguel Beermen on March 10 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum