NLEX keeps playoff hopes alive by beating Meralco on KG Canaleta's late heroics
Nino Canaleta caught fire in the endgame for NLEX. Jerome Ascano

NINO Canaleta scored 11 of NLEX’s last 17 points to help secure a 89-76 win over Meralco that kept the Road Warriors' playoff hopes alive in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Canaleta, a 40 percent shooter from three-point territory this conference, provided the lethal scoring punch at a time when NLEX import Al Thornton started to lose steam after carrying the scoring load during the first three quarters.

The 34-year-old former University of the East wingman hit three three-pointers in the last five-and-a-half minutes, including one from quarter court that proved to be the dagger as he gave NLEX an 82-74 lead, 43.4 seconds left to play.

Aiding NLEX’s third win in seven games was the disqualification of Meralco import Josh Davis, who was slapped with an offensive foul while trying to go hard against Thornton’s defense with more than three minutes left to play. 

“The game plan was to really stop Davis’ rebounding because the past few games, they (Bolts) always won because of the energy of Davis,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez.

By scoring its first back-to-back wins this season, NLEX tied idle KIA Motors for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. The bottom four in the 12-team field face outright elimination.

Meralco dropped to joint first place with Talk 'N Text and Rain or Shine, a 103-91 winner over Barako Bull earlier, after suffering a second straight setback.

Thornton led the Road Warriors with 36 points, his fourth straight game to score 30 or more this conference.

Gary David led the Bolts with 28 points while Davis chipped in 19 and 11 rebounds.

The scores:

NLEX 89 - Thornton 36, Canaleta 16, Villanueva J. 8, Taulava 8, Lingganay 7, Borboran 6, Villanueva E. 4, Cardona 2, Apinan 2, Ramos 0, Arboleda H. 0.
Meralco 76 - David 28, Davis 19, Cortez 10, Hodge 8, Anthony 5, Dillinger 4, Hugnatan 2, Reyes 0, ATkins 0, Wilson 0, Ferriols 0, Sena 0.
Quarterscores: 18-14, 45-35, 63-56, 89-76

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