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PBA: NLEX sinks Kia

Al Thornton

Games Tomorrow (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Blackwater vs Rain or Shine
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Purefoods

The instruction from NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez to Asi Taulava was explicit: Wrestle PJ Ramos inside and let import Al Thornton take care of the offense.

Taulava, 6-foot-9 and 245 lbs, gave it his best to follow the order despite recently getting confined overnight in the hospital for exhaustion. But the Kia Carnival behemoth stands 7-foot-4 and weighs about 50 lbs. heavier and all Taulava managed was hold down the Puerto Rican giant to 41 points and 23 rebounds.

“Just tried my best to limit PJ,” said Taulava, who held Ramos to 2 points in the fourth quarter as NLEX routed Kia, 102-86, last night to extend its winning streak to five in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Asked how it felt to wrestle Ramos, Taulava said: “It was a lot like getting a full-body massage from a 7-foot grizzly (bear).”

At 6-4 win-loss, NLEX, in 5th spot behind defending champion Purefoods Star, Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Talk ‘N Text, still has a shot at getting to 2nd place and clinching a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals but Fernandez isn’t looking that far.

“Di ko na iniisip yon kasi most of the teams sa upper bracket have beaten us; Purefoods nga beat us by a mile. Kahit mag-tie, talo rin kami,” said the Road Warriors coach, who is banking, however, on getting past Barako Bull in their last elimination round game to seal their place in the best-of-3 playoffs.

“We need to secure our spot in the three-four-five-six (places),” he said. “Mahirap kasi matalo against Barako dahil baka magtuloy-tuloy ng panalo yung mga nasa baba at ma-ease out pa kami.”

With Taulava doing his job, Thornton didn’t disappoint either.

Thornton had 33 points, 12 in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth, and pulled down 14 rebounds in leading five NLEX players in double figures. Mark Cardona opened the last 12 minutes with a 3-pointer to tie the game, 72-all, and Thornton added consecutive driving layups as the Road Warriors seized control.

Double-teaming Ramos every time he got the ball down low, NLEX saw its work get a bit easier when Kia missed 15 of 20 three-point attempts, a key factor that helped the Carnival shock champion teams San Miguel Beer, Purefoods, Alaska, and Talk ‘N Text earlier.

No other Kia player had more than 8 points after Reil Cervantes, who was 3 of 8 from the field.

Ramos was in the middle of an anxious moment that gripped the last four minutes after his right knee buckled from under him while trying to block a driving Jonas Villanueva.

The Kia import crumpled to the floor, grimacing in pain and clutching his knee. While many feared the worst, Ramos eventually picked himself up since nobody could lift him and hobbled back to the bench.

He returned after less than a minute of rest but was helpless to deny Thornton and resist Taulava in their wrestling match.

In the second game, import Ivan Johnson scored 41 points to lead Talk N’ Text past San Miguel Beer, 113-93.

NLEX 102 – Thornton 33, Villanueva J. 20, Cardona 16, Lingganay 12, Taulava 10, Villanueva E. 4, Borboran 4, Canaleta 3, Raymundo 0, Camson 0, Ramos 0, Arboleda H. 0.

KIA 86 – Ramos 41, Cervantes 8, Buensuceso 7, Cawaling 6, Revilla 6, Avenido 6, Dehesa 5, Poligrates 3, Thiele 2, Yee 2, Alvarez 0, Pascual 0.

Quarters: 16-22, 36-45, 69-72, 102-86.

Second game:
TALK N’ TEXT 113 – Johnson 41, Rosser 22, De Ocampo 17, Fonacier 12, Alas 8, Castro 7, Seigle 3, Aban 2, Labagala 1, Washington 0, Carey 0, Reyes 0, Williams 0.

SAN MIGUEL BEER 93 – Reid 32, Fajardo 20, Lassiter 12, Kramer 7, Santos 7, Cabagnot 6, Lutz 5, Ross 2, Reyes 2, Semerad 0, Omolon 0.

Quarters: 28-27, 56-48, 88-62, 113-93.