Another huge comeback victory went down in yesterday’s 2021 PBA Philippine Cup double-header. If you missed Thursday’s PBA games, read below for our quick wrap-up, starting with the Phoenix’s exploits in the clutch.
Always save your best for the “Wright” time
In their game against the Rain or Shine Thursday, the situation looked bleak for the Fuel Masters down the stretch. Vic Manuel played only three minutes the whole contest, and Matthew Wright just couldn’t find the bottom of the net. The Elasto Painters’ vaunted defense was as good as advertised at that point, limiting Phoenix to only 59 points with six minutes left on the game clock.
Phoenix, however, suddenly turned on the switch and went on a scintillating 15-0 run, capped by RR Garcia’s corner triple with only a minute remaining. Garcia delivered again in the next offensive possession, pulling up for a mid-range jumper that gave Phoenix a 76-74 lead. Rain or Shine veteran forward Gabe Norwood answered with a banker to tie the score, setting up a photo finish at Bacolor, Pampanga.
Phoenix pinned their hopes on Wright, who missed all of his 14 attempts up until that point. But with all the confidence in the world, Wright isolated at the top of the key, shook off a great defender in Norwood, and hit a turn-around jumper to win the game. That was Wright’s only made field goal as he finished with four points, five assists, and 12 rebounds.
But of course, Wright wouldn’t have the chance to come up with that game-winner if not for the work that his teammates put in. Jason Perkins, who tallied a stat line of 18 points, 12 boards, and 5 assists, once again showing why he’s one of the most versatile power forwards in the league today. Garcia finished with 18 markers of his own, and newly-acquired guard Chris Banchero contributed 14 points and 5 steals.
Phoenix head coach Topex Robinson later on explained that Manuel was a “bit under the weather,” which is the reason why the scoring forward played sparingly in the win.
NLEX survives first test without Kiefer
The rest of the conference will be an uphill climb for the Road Warriors, but they managed to start off on the right foot with an 84-74 win over the Aces. Shaking off the absence of star lead guard Kiefer Ravena, NLEX leaned on the leadership of Kevin Alas, who tacked on 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists. J.R. Quiñahan and Jericho Cruz also rose to the occasion, scoring 18 and 15 points, respectively.
Can the Road Warriors, sans their best player, sustain this kind of performance once they go up against top-tier teams? Ravena’s shoes will be impossible to fill. Per Stats by Ryan, an advanced stats platform for Philippine basketball, Ravena’s offensive load (OffLoad) of 48.5 is the highest in his team and the third-highest in the entire league. Offensive load is an advanced metric that incorporates scoring, passing, and creation to measure how much a player is directly involved on offense, and Ravena’s high rating meant that the Road Warriors’ offense mostly revolved around him, so losing his presence at that end of the floor will really hurt the team and mean a whole new round of preparations.
Aside from Alas, Cruz, and Quiñahan, NLEX needs another player or two to burst into the scene each game and chalk up “bonus points” for the team. That came in the form of Kenneth Ighalo in Thursday’s win over Alaska. Ighalo, who actually played his first game of the conference, came off the bench to tally 15 points built on three hits from beyond the arc. Whether it will be Ighalo or Don Trollano or Mike Ayonayon, NLEX needs these kinds of “surprisingly good” performances from their bench players to make up for Kiefer’s absence.
Advanced Stats are now available for Philippine basketball! Through Ryan Alba’s Stats by Ryan, you can now look at team and player advanced stats for the current 2021 PBA Philippine Cup via the Dribble Media website.
Also, check out this glossary for a list of the basketball advanced stats terminologies.
You can also contact Ryan Alba via his Twitter handle (@_alba__).