NLEX stops slide, edges Pacquiao-less Kia
MANILA, Philippines — NLEX stopped a three-game losing skid just in time for the playoffs after an 88-80 win over Kia in the 2015 PBA Philippine Cup Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Asi Taulava posted his sixth double-double of the conference with 19 points and 14 rebounds while Niño Canaleta had 16 points for the Road Warriors, who needed to hold off a fourth-quarter surge by the Sorento.
“At least we stopped the bleeding,” said NLEX head coach Boyet Fernandez. “Kia has been playing really well the past several games.”
“We’re just happy to get over the hump. Hopefully this win will give us the confidence in the quarterfinals. We know it will be tough playing against the No. 3 team in the league but we’ll be ready,” added Fernandez.
NLEX led by 10, 67-57, on a 3-pointer by Canaleta early in the fourth quarter before Kia rallied behind Reil Cervantes, who scored half of his career-high 34 points in the fourth period alone.
Cervantes made back-to-back 3-pointers that trimmed NLEX’s lead down to one, 76-75, with still 4:32 remaining before Hyram Bagatsing tied it at 77 with3:03 to go.
But the Sorento muffed close shots and committed a slew of turnovers down the stretch while the Road Warriors sank their free throws to come up with their fourth victory to end the elimination round.
Kia missed the presence of its playing-coach Manny Pacquiao after the Fighter of the Decade’s flight from General Santos City to Manila got canceled due to Typhoon “Ruby.”
“Standing-wise, record-wise it’s really ugly but as a coach I’m happy with what the players were able to show because we’re not really that talented and we’re a bunch of unknows but we competed,” said Kia assistant coach Glenn Capacio, whose team ended its campaign losing its last 10 games after a breakthrough win over fellow newcomer Blackwater in the season opener.
Free throws by Aldrech Ramos after a turnover by LA Revilla put the game away, 85-77, with 51.6 seconds left.
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