NLEX clamped down on defense and turned to their usual reliables on offense as it rolled past Blackwater, 88-75, to get back on the winning track in the PBA Commissioner’s on Easter Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors pounced on the Elite’s errors and missed baskets as they pushed the pace and erected a double-digit lead, before overcoming a comeback early in the fourth quarter to put their win-loss records on level terms at 4-4.
The Road Warriors also added to the misery of the Elite, who suffered a third straight setback to fall to 3-6.
Asi Taulava, 43, displayed a youthful zest anew, tallying 22 points, 15 boards, and four assists, and two blocks, while Al Thornton and Sean Anthony delivered as usual to lead the Road Warriors on offense.
“(But) it’s our defense that stepped up today,” Road Warriors coach Boyet Fernandez said. “Our goal was just to limit them below ninety, but we limited them even lower.”
The Road Warriors enjoyed double-digit leads as many as 16 points as they held the Elite to a woeful 31-percent shooting from the field after they made just 27 of their 86 shots overall.
But the Elite refused to go down without a fight as they made a run that saw them cut the lead to just a basket, 70-68, after a Bambam Gamalinda stab with a little over seven minutes left in the fourth period.
The Road Warriors, however, retaliated with an 11-1 run, capped by a commanding slam by Thornton that proved enough to take the fight out of the Elite, who saw another disappointing performance by their own import MJ Rhett who was limited to 14 points 5-of-14 shooting.
Art dela Cruz led the Elite with 16 points and 12 boards in 27 minutes off the bench, all for naught.
NLEX 88 – Taulava 22, Thornton 22, Anthony 15, Alas 10, J Villanueva 7, E Villanueva 4, Khobuntin 3, Lanete 3, Enciso 2. Borboran 0
BLACKWATER 75 – Dela Cruz 16, Rhett 14, Cervantes 11, Gamalinda 8, Cortez 7, Pascual 7, Lastimosa 6, Erram 4, Sena 2, Bulawan 0, Golla 0, Reyes 0, Tiongson 0
Quarterscores: 18-12, 42-32, 66-60, 88-75