New NLEX acquisition finds old form and puts Road Warriors back in playoffs hunt

Robert Bolick NLEX PBA

NLEX guard Robert Bolick.–PBA IMAGES

It took a monster game from Robert Bolick, but the NLEX Road Warriors can go into Christmas and New Year with a positive outlook after snapping their long losing skid in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday.

“We’ve been spurned so many times already. We didn’t want to fail again, so we can have a happy Christmas,” said Bolick after putting NLEX on his back and keying the Road Warriors’ 104-97 win over the slumping Blackwater Bossing at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Now the Road Warriors hope to get more wins and, once the holiday revelry passes, give themselves a chance to make the quarterfinals of the season-opening conference.

The victory gave NLEX a 3-6 (win-loss) record with two games left in the eliminations.

NLEX resumes play on Jan. 10 against Converge, an assignment the team has a great shot at winning before a potential fate-determining duel against conference heavyweight Barangay Ginebra in Legazpi City. A loss in either game likely sends the Road Warriors to an early vacation and puts their focus on the Philippine Cup.

“[This was] a must-win game and if you want to go to the next round, it starts today,” said coach Frankie Lim. “We have to make sure that we beat Converge and Ginebra in our last two games.”

Bolick played like the Bolick of old in just in second game since his rights were acquired from NorthPort and since inking a three-year contract with the Road Warriors.

He finished with 30 points—the fifth time in his career that he breached that number—while also dishing out 15 assists and falling just two rebounds shy of a triple-double.

Smooth transition

“The transition is smooth because of how good the coaches are,” said Bolick. “We [have] a good system and the coaches know how to make it easy for us.”The Road Warriors ended a four-game slide, winning for the first time since Stokley Chaffee replaced import Thomas Robinson after a 2-2 record.

Chaffee had 20 points, 13 rebounds and four assists on the day he celebrated his 27th birthday.

Blackwater lost for the eighth consecutive time after starting the conference with a win over Converge.

Import Chris Ortiz had 27 points and seven assists in another strong performance that ended once more in defeat.

Bolick made a key stop with eight ticks left and then scored four points to seal the win and show the Bossing the door.

“Credit also to my teammates; they came ready to play,” Bolick said.

“We struggled a bit, especially in the first half … I told them (players) it’s very important to win this game,” said Lim, whose charges are now at ninth place, just one spot out of the quarterfinals cutoff.

Jhan Nermal chipped in 15, Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser had 12 and Enoch Valdez added 11 for NLEX.

Blackwater drew 17 points from rookie Christian David, and 16 from RK Ilagan but fell to an eighth straight defeat.