PUREFOODS Star survived NLEX’s flurry of three-point shots, getting their title-retention bid going with an 89-85 victory on Sunday in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Marqus Blakely supplied the energy and huge emotional lift for a Hotshots squad that coach Tim Cone said appears to be veering away from the effort they have shown during their grand slam season.
The 6-foot-4 Blakely, now in his fifth PBA tour of duty, flirted with a triple-double of 29 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists, while adding five blocks in a dominant effort.
NLEX American import Kwame Alexander hit two of the team’s four three-point shots in the last 33 seconds, but Purefoods Star had enough cushion and Blakely rose for a two-handed dunk to seal the team’s victory.
“We’re not playing as well as we should be. Maybe we’ll warmup and get better as we go along,” said Cone, who couldn’t hide his displeasure over the way his top three stars James Yap, Peter June Simon and Marc Pingris struggled to start the season-ending conference.
Cone said after winning five championships since he took over in 2012, he felt like the Hotshots” ‘Big Three” version could be going through the motions this season.
“It’s still a struggle for our ‘Big Three’ just to stay focused,” he said.
“They played so much basketball and won so much, and finally, they are getting bored a little bit,” added Cone.
Still, the multi-titled PBA coach is hopeful that Yap and Co. will get their competitive fire back as the tournament progresses, while the rest of the Hotshots need to pick up the intensity as well.
Yap, Pingris and Simon combined to shoot just 8-of-27 from the field.
Pingris managed to finish with eight points and nine rebounds, Yap had seven, while Simon only had four in 18 minutes of action.
NLEX, which fell to 0-2, drew 25 points and 26 rebounds from Alexander, while Jonas Villanueva added 14.
Syrian import Michel Madanly played despite a painful neck, contributing eight points.
Purefoods 89 — Blakely 29, Mallari 15, Barroca 9, Pingris 8, Yap 7, Maliksi 7, Devance 7, Simon 4, Reavis 3, Pennis 0.
NLEX 85 — Alexander 25; Villanueva 14, Cardona 9, Borboran 8, Madanly 8, Canaleta 6, Taulava 6, E. Villanueva 4, Raymundo 2, Ramos 2, Lingganay 1, Apinan 0.
Quarterscores: 17-13; 41-41; 56-58; 89-85.