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Blackwater turns back NLEX to end slump
Games Friday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs Phoenix
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Mahindra
MANILA, Philippines – Blackwater topped a badly crippled NLEX team in an error-strewn game, checking a two-game slide with a 96-85 triumph to get back in the Top Five in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
With Mac Belo neutralized by the NLEX defense, Art dela Cruz, Kyle Pascual and Ronjay Buenafe led the Blackwater offense that ran down the Road Warriors and carried the Elite back on the winning track following back-to-back losses TNT KaTropa and Rain or Shine.
Blackwater breached the .500 mark again with a 3-2 win-loss slate while NLEX fell deeper behind the frontrunners with a 1-3 record.
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Coming off losses to the Meralco Bolts and the Star Hotshots, the Road Warriors struggled even more minus gunner Garvo Lanete, and big men Asi Taulava and Rico Villanueva with their respective health problems.
"After two consecutive setbacks, including the last one that was very frustrating versus Rain or Shine, we had to get back on our senses and played hard basketball. Good thing, this situation is available for us," said Blackwater coach Leo Isaac.
"It so happened NLEX was lacking some key players. Blackwater took advantage of that situation," Isaac also said.
Dela Cruz top scored with 18 points, Pascual contributed 16 markers while Buenafe chipped in 13 for the Elite who led from start to finish despite 27 turnovers.
The Elite overcame numerous lapses with their domination at the paint, giving them a 21-14 advantage on second-chance points and a six-point edge from the stripe.
Belo, Blackwater's prized Gilas recruit, had a silent nine-point performance, his least in his first five games in the pros.
"The other teams have scouted him. There were instances in this game that he'd become hesitant. We had to convince him to stay aggressive," said Isaac of Belo, the former FEU top gun who averaged 19 points in his first four outings with the Elite.
"We have to remind him not to be contented with what he has achieved.
He has to sharpen his tools lalo na medyo checked na siya at this point," Isaac added.
For the Road Warriors, the absence of Taulava, Villanueva and Lanete proved too tough to bear.
Carlo Lastimosa, a former Blackwater player, led all scorers with 23 points but he was among three NLEX players who committed four errors.
The Road Warriors stayed in the fight just in the first half, slowly falling behind in the second half of the match marked by a total of 51 errors from both teams.