PHOENIX proved it can win without Matthew Wright and JC Intal not 100 percent as it turned it on in the second half to cruise past GlobalPort, 84-72, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday night.
Without Wright, who’s on loan to Gilas Pilipinas, and with Intal coming off a freak shin injury after Holy Week, RJ Jazul stepped up while Jameel McKay remained a steady presence for the Fuel Masters, who also drew timely contribution from role players Chico Lanete and Norbert Torres.
Lanete and Torres combined for nine points in the third quarter where they conspired with McKay in outscoring the Batang Pier, 30-19, to turn the game around after falling into an early 15-point hole.
Lanete’s last two points came from a breakaway layup off his steal from Mike Cortez that gave the Fuel Masters their biggest lead at 78-65 in the payoff period – completing a 28-point turnaround.
“I just challenged them to dig deeper and yun, maganda naman ang response,” Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia said. “Hopefully this long break, we can plug in some holes in our offense ag nagi-improve ng konti yung depensa.”
Intal, who hurt his shin while fixing a tent, was held scoreless and committed two turnovers in less than 10 minutes off the bench.
When the Fuel Maters, who hiked their win-loss tally to 4-5 this conference – and 2-2 when Wright is absent, take the court again, they’ll have Wright back in tow against Mahindra on May 21.
“We just have to focus and having Matthew Wright back by the 21st will be a boost for us,” Vanguardia said.
What’s better is that the Fuel Masters are playing two winnable games against cellar-dwelling teams in the Floodbuster and NLEX to finish the elimination round.
Vanguardia, though, is reminding his wards not to get way ahead of themselves.
“Yung teams naman dito sa PBA, anyone can beat anyone at a given day,” the Phoenix coach said.