ANTIPOLO - NLEX rallied behind Al Thornton to stun Barangay Ginebra, 96-90, on Wednesday night at the Ynares Center and stay in the hunt for a quarterfinal spot in the PBA Commissioners’ Cup.
The Road Warriors import exploded for a league season-high 50 points in 45 minutes to lead his team in erasing a late deficit and rolling to their third straight victory and fourth overall in eight games.
That enabled them to snap the Gin Kings two-game winning run while creating a four-team logjam with their victims, Barako Bull, and Globalport in fifth spot with a 4-4 win-loss card.
“Al was really big tonight,” Road Warriors coach Boyet Ferandez said of Thornton, who is still recovering from a left knee injury. “His legs aren’t strong right now, but his heart sobrang laki.”
Even if no other Road Warrior scored in double figures, it hardly mattered as Thornton, a five-year NBA veteran, shot an efficient 18-of-24 clip from the field and added 18 rebounds, two assists, and one block to carry his team.
The Gin Kings had a more balanced attack with three players scoring at least 20 points, but they crumbled down the stretch after leading most of the way.
Thornton gave NLEX its first lead of the game when he knocked down a tough turnaround jumper that made it 83-82 with a little less than four minutes to go.
The conversion was part of a back-breaking 14-1 run — eight of their points coming from Thornton — that turned a 79-81 deficit into a 91-83 lead that proved enough to seal the outcome.
Ginebra also made it easy for NLEX to edge ahead in the endgame, committing one horrendous error after another with the game on the line.
Ginebra import Michael Dunigan registered 23 points, seven boards, two assists, one block, and one steal — numbers that paled in conparison to Thornton’s stats, while Greg Slaughter chipped in 21 points and 18 boards.
NLEX 96 – Thornton 50, Villanueva J. 9, Taulava 8, Cardona 7, Canaleta 7, Lingganay 6, Villanueva E. 4, Arboleda H. 3, Ramos 2, Raymundo 0, Borboran 0
GINEBRA 90 – Dunigan 23, Slaughter 21, Tenorio 20, Aguilar 10, Baracael 8, Caguioa 5, Helterbrand 3, Mamaril 0, Monfort 0, Yeo 0, Ellis 0
Quarterscores: 9-19, 42-35, 70-68, 96-90