Still looking for all the positives it can still get, erstwhile cellar-dweller NLEX was able to finally post another one in the win column after surviving Rain or Shine’s late-game rally to take a 100-97 squeaker in the 2019 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
In his first game back, returning import Olu Ashaolu made his presence felt already, scattering team-highs of 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists to pace the Road Warriors.
After seeing almost all of its 17-point fourth quarter lead vanish, the Road Warriors were able to escape by a whisker in the closing seconds.
Kris Rosales’ triple completed an 11-4 Rain or Shine run as it pulled the Elasto Painters to within a single point, 97-98, with 33 seconds remaining after chipping away on its huge deficit.
Ashaolu’s two free throws with three seconds extended NLEX’s lead to 100-97 with Rain or Shine still having one crack to force the game to overtime.
However, Denzel Bowles misfired on a potential game-tying triple, enabling the Road Warriors to have a huge sigh of relief.
Though its chances remained bleak, NLEX kept its slim hopes of making the quarterfinals alive as it improved to 2-7 to move up to 11th place with two games remaining in its schedule.
Rain or Shine, meanwhile, remained inconsistent as it fell to 3-4, still in seventh place.
Jericho Cruz provided NLEX with 15 points, five rebounds and six assists in another complete performance for more support.
NLEX maneuvered its way in the second frame with a burly outburst to grasp control.
With the teams tied at the end of one, the Road Warriors took the second quarter emphatically to take sizeable 51-38 cushion at the half.
The Road Warriors were able to even stretch their lead further to 17 points, 81-64, heading to the fourth period.
In a last-ditch effort in the closing minutes, the Elasto Painters were able to close the gap in the end before eventually falling short.
Denzel Bowles led all scorers with a game-high 35 points for NLEX.