THE NLEX Road Warriors were sent crashing back to earth by a tall, organized Al-Riyadi Lebanon team, 83-111, on Monday morning in the Dubai International Basketball Invitationals at the Al Ahli Club.
Bannered by two American imports led by former Los Angeles Laker Brian Cook, the Lebanese side got off to a quick start and showed the teamwork and fluidity which the PBA rookie team still clearly lacked.
"They are very organized, their energy is magnificent and that made it hard for us to cope," admitted NLEX team manager Ronald Dulatre of Al-Riyadi, a five-time champion back home.
After a 10-0 start by Al-Riyadi, the Road Warriors clawed back to take the lead briely, 17-16, only to reel back once again as the Lebanese side started imposting its advantage in size and firepower.
The Road Warriors fell behind by as much as 22 points as Amir Saoud, Ismali Ahmad, Jamar Young and reinforcements Cook and Jeremaih Massey who combined for Lebanon's 94 points.
Though he had some frustrations about officiating, Dulatre conceded the Road Wariors lost to a better team.
Sweet-shooting big man Aldrech Ramos tried to hold the fort on a night when the bigger Lebanese clamped down on NLEX's duo of Asi Taulava and Al Thornton. He scored a game-high 22 points.
Taulava, who led NLEX to an 81-71 win over Itihad-Libya, was held to 12 points and five rebounds while NBA veteran Thornton battled foul trouble all evening and finished with 12 points and three boards.
"We have no regrets, we were able to learn a lot from this game which we can use to adjust in our next games here," said Dulatre.
NLEX will next face Dubai Al Habtoor at 9 p.m. on Monday (Dubai time or 1 a.m. here in Manila).
"We are toughened by our participation here, hopefully this translates into a better campaign when we return to the Philippines to compete in the coming PBA Commissioner's cup," said Dulatre.
"We will try to bounce back. It's just one loss, we will adjust and the title is still in our sights," he added.
Al Riyadi-Lebanon 111 - Saoud 24, Young 21, Cook 14, Ahmad 13, Massey 12, Mahmoud 8, Arakji 6, Ghafari 3, Fakherdinne 3, Ibrahim 3, Miguel 2, Samaha 2,
NLEX-Philippines 83 - Ramos 22, Taulava 12, Thornton 11, Lingganay 9, Canaleta 8, J Villanueva 6, Baloria 6, Cardona 4, Borboran 3, Camson 2, Soyud 0, E Villanueva 0