The difference between winning and losing was as slim as 1.8 seconds. But that was all Phoenix needed to swipe an 86-84 victory over Rain or Shine in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup on Wednesday.
When Rain or Shine's defense focused on a driving Eugene Phelps, RR Garcia went unnoticed under the basket. Phelps hit Garcia with the pass out of the triple team and Phelps sunk the game-winner at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Phoenix coach Louie Alas, who took out Garcia after he botched two free throws in the final 20 seconds, said the play was actually designed for Phelps.
"I took him out for defensive purposes, but I told him to stay ready because if there's time left, I'll put him back on the floor," the coach said. "That was for Eugene and RR. Actually RR was supposed to pop out, but Eugene wasn't able to get to him to set a screen."
Garcia stayed underneath the basket as Phelps handed him the pass on a silver platter.
"He wasn't supposed to be the hero there, but he became the recipient of Eugene's pass," Alas added. "You can't teach that, being at the right place at the right time. He wasn't supposed to be there, but he got free."
Garcia, who finished with 14 points, three assists and two rebounds in as a starter, was just happy to have made up for the missed free throws -- shots that would have given Phoenix a two-point buffer after a Javee Mocon jumper with seven seconds remaining.
"I always tell him to stay patient because he really wants his game to be excellent right off the bat," Alas said. "That won't happen. This isn't a sprint, I told him. This is a marathon. Game out, game in he should slowly pick up his game from before and so far, I like what I'm seeing," said Alas.
Garcia assured that he'll find his footing for the Fuel Masters soon enough.
"I'm getting there. But the games are close to each other, that's why I need to rest too," he said. "I'm just repaying him. I'm happy I was able to return to the PBA, here in Phoenix because of him. I hope this continues."
With the win, the Fuel Masters snapped a two-game skid for a 2-4 win-loss record.
Phelps had another monster game with 19 points, 20 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks. Jazul added 15 points.
"Still breathing," said Phoenix head coach Louie Alas, who was celebrating his birthday Wednesday.
"Good thing we didn't give up. There were no negative thoughts earlier. So I guess that's their gift to me."
Rain or Shine, meanwhile, lost its third straight and reeled to a 1-4 card.
It looked like Rain or Shine was set to extend the match but the Elasto Painters focused a little too much on Phelps that two teammates were left open.
Kayel Locke paced Rain or Shine with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Rey Nambatac chimed in 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, and four steals.
Phoenix 86 - Phelps 19, Jazul 15, Garcia 14, Napoles 9, Perkins 8, Potts 8, Marcelo 6, Mallari 5, Chua 2.
Rain or Shine 84 - Locke 29, Nambatac 14, Mocon 12, Norwood 11, Ponferrada 7, Borboran 6, Daquioag 5, Exciminiano 0, Rosales 0, Torres 0, Belga 0.
Quarterscores: 26-18, 50-43, 72-69, 86-84
Rain or Shine never led but tied the score eight times during the match.
Beau Belga was ejected after incurring a flagrant foul penalty 2 in the second quarter for hitting Jason Perkins with a forearm to the neck.
Phoenix vs. NorthPort on October 12 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rain or Shine vs. Alaska on October 13 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.