by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
4:30 p.m. – NLEX vs Blackwater
6:45 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs San Miguel
Import Gani Lawal bounced back from a sluggish outing the last time and led Meralco past the Calvin Abueva-less Phoenix Pulse, 101-95, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Lawal finished with 28 points and 26 rebounds, making his presence felt in the final minutes to give the Bolts their third straight win and tie the Alaska Aces for fifth place at 3-2.
Coach Norman Black expressed satisfaction over Lawal’s performance after struggling in Meralco’s 91-84 victory over Rain or Shine.
“Gani made a big difference for us in the second half on the offensive end, even defensively,” said Black.
It also helped that the locals put up big numbers as guard Baser Amer scoring 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting with four rebounds and four assists, Chris Newsome 18 points and Nico Salva 15 points and seven rebounds.
Meralco won with center Raymond Almazan making his debut after being traded from Rain or Shine prior to the start of the conference.
Almazan, who missed the first three games due to an ankle injury, scored three points but had four fouls in 12 minutes.
Phoenix dropped to 1-2 in its first game since the league handed Abueva an indefinite suspension for making a lewd gesture at Blackwater rookie Ray Parks Jr’s girlfriend and for hitting TNT KaTropa import Terrence Jones with a clothesline.
The Fuel Masters were also without coach Louie Alas, who was banned for two games for shoving TNT’s David Semerad during an altercation and for making comments detrimental to the league.
Lead assistant Topex Robinson was tasked to handle Phoenix in a game that saw 13 ties and 15 lead changes.
Matthew Wright scored 20 points for Phoenix but import Richard Howell, who is filling-in for the injured Rob Dozier, was held to just eight points while committing five fouls as early as the third.
Phoenix led 51-46 in the third but Lawal and Amer combined for 17 in the said period to give Meralco an 80-72 advantage going into the fourth.
The Fuel Masters got to within two, 86-84, on Howell’s layup but Lawal scored six straight to put the Bolts up 92-87.
MERALCO 101 – Lawal 28, Amer 20, Newsome 18, Salva 15, Quinto 8, De Ocampo 6, Almazan 3, Pinto 3, Hodge 0, Jackson 0, Caram 0, Hugnatan 0.
PHOENIX 95 – Wright 20, Perkins 16, Jazul 12, Marcelo 10, Howell 8, Mallari 7, Chua 6, Dennison 5, Intal 5, Kramer 4, Revilla 2, Wilson 0.
Quarters: 21-19, 46-47, 80-72, 101-95.