AL Thornton overcame a poor shooting night with an explosive fourth-quarter performance to lead NLEX in an epic come-from-behind win over San Miguel, 100-93, and revive its playoff hopes in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Tuesday at the Astrodome.
Shooting mostly bricks in the first three quarters, the 6-foot-7 Thornton suddenly came alive in the payoff period and led the Road Warriors’ magnificent fightback from 22 points down by knocking shot after shot in a murderous 22-3 blast.
The run had NLEX finally gaining control, 95-88 with a minute left in the game.
The 31-year-old Thornton finished the game with 30 points, 12 in the final period and served as NLEX’s catalyst in the come-from-behind win.
The victory improved NLEX's record to 2-4 in a tie with idle KIA Motors at ninth to 10th place.
The Beermen, on the other hand, dropped at the cellar with a 1-5 record in a tie with Blackwater Elite.
“The turning point was our press and us trying to force them to shoot the threes, while we took away the penetration of (Arizona) Reid and they missed their shots,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez after the game.
NLEX is actually coming off a heartbreaking 96-98 loss to Talk ‘N Text last week in a game that saw the Road Warriors comeback from a 29-point deficit to tie the game at 96-all.
But Jayson Castro knocked a long, buzzer-beating jumper to seal the win for Talk ‘N Text.
Nonetheless, Fernandez said he used the heartbreaking loss to the Tropang Texters as a motivation to work even harder against the Beermen.
“From the start ng game, I was reminding them (Road Warriors) kung kaya natin yung Talk ‘N Text game na we’re down and we can recover from 29 points down, we’re still capable of winning the game especially against San Miguel,” he said.
The one-time PBA champion coach said the Road Warriors’ zone defense, particularly in the fourth period, prevented the Beermen from getting the ball to June Mar Fajardo and Reid inside as the two were instrumental in giving San Miguel a 22-point lead in the third period.
“Umulit na naman ng first half,” Fernandez said, referring to NLEX’s slow start.
“But then, we adjusted to play zone. I’m just happy San Miguel didn’t make their three-point shots, though we limited their attacks in the post and we got the defensive rebounds.”
Asi Taulava added 20 points and seven rebounds for NLEX, while Jonas Villanueva chipped in 15, five rebounds, and five assists.
Reid led the Beermen with 27 points, but was scoreless in the final period.
Arwind Santos added 20 points and seven boards.
NLEX (100) -- Thornton 30, Taulava 20, J. Villanueva 15, Cardona 9, Borboran 8, Canaleta 6, Lingganay 6, E. Villanueva 2, Ramos 2, Apinan 2, Raymundo 0, H. Arboleda 0.
San Miguel (93) -- Reid 27, Santos 20, Kramer 15, Lutz 10, Fajardo 10, Cabagnot 6, Ross 2, Lassiter 2, Tubid 1.
Quarterscores: 14-26; 33-46; 58-75; 100-93.