ROS played beautiful basketball in the first thirty-six minutes of action. Their fluid ball movement and suffocating defense gave them a 15-point cushion at most, which they failed to hold on to. In the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, NLEX made a blazing 16-3 run that caught the Elasto Painters off guard. The Road Warriors’ outside shots were clicking in the final period, while Rain or Shine’s were not, and they did all these with their main man, Asi Taulava, on the bench. NLEX was leading for most of the quarter, and with 35 seconds left on the clock, they still had a two-possession edge.
But then Paul Lee happened.
The Lethal Weapon scored five straight points, including a cold-blooded triple from way beyond the arc, to grab the lead back from NLEX.
Credit also goes to Beau Belga, who made life difficult for Taulava, and is responsible for the last two stops that prevented the Road Warriors from snatching the win.
The composure of the Elasto Painters was key in those dying seconds. Off a timeout with under a minute remaining, KG Canaleta made a huge alley-oop shot off an inbound pass from Jonas Villanueva. While NLEX was too busy celebrating that lovely highlight, Lee was already rushing to the other side to find Gabe Norwood who finished an easy fastbreak layup. NLEX almost completed a similar alley-oop play, but Canaleta couldn’t finish it the second time around.
Angas ng Tondo is really an apt monicker for Lee as his face was all “hey don’t worry I got this” in that crazy final stretch. He dropped 27 points (10 in the 4th Q), eight rebounds, and three assists.
– JR Quinahan positioned at the top of the key dishing dimes to cutters worked so well, two of which resulted to slam dunks for Norwood. Gabe has been missing in (offensive) action this conference, but he’s finally been found in this contest. He contributed 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
– ROS again lost in the rebounding battle, 48 to 60. They especially gave up several offensive boards that led to 13 second chance points for NLEX, compared to the nine markers that they produced. Looking at their numbers so far and how they rank against the rest of the league prove that this category has always been their weakness.
|22.8 (12th)||46.0 (7th)||47.2% (11th)||9.0 (12th)|
– Jireh Ibanes doing what he does best is such a joy to watch. His assignment was to guard Mac Cardona and be energetic and annoying on the defensive end in general. Taulava made a living from the post and his baseline spins, but one of his attempts was thwarted by Ibanes’ sneaky block from behind.
Rain or Shine has been trying to survive with short rotation all season. In this game, they missed Jeff Chan, Chris Tiu, Jervy Cruz, and Jeric Teng. Guiao’s strategy of emptying the bench and giving significant minutes to all have been bearing fruit, as everybody in the roster is capable and confident enough to step up in place of injured players.
Booking an automatic ticket to the semi-finals by getting one of the top two spots is still possible but very difficult to achieve, given the tough schedule ahead and their lineup woes. The remaining matches against Purefoods, Alaska, and Ginebra will definitely be grind-it-out ones that will push ROS to their limits.
Featured image courtesy of Mon Rubio, The Shaded Lane