Maliksi sizzles for career-high 29 as Star stuns TNT
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – By the time Allein Maliksi caught the ball, positioned himself, and let fly a wide open 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining, he was oozing with confidence, his stroke was on point, and there was no stopping the swingman from making that shot.
Maliksi was cool and composed, making all 6 of his triples, including the huge dagger, on his way to a new career-high 29 points with 6 rebounds off the bench as the Star Hotshots stunned Tropang TNT, 96-88, in the 2016 PBA Commissioner's Cup on Sunday, March 6 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"Allein just played solid," said coach Jason Webb. "We had an idea that the one thing we were gonna struggle with tonight was scoring because we had a new import. Allein just kept us alive in the first half. Shot the lights out."
Maliksi, whose triple gave the Hotshots a crucial 92-87 cushion down the stretch, has been a picture of consistency during this listless conference for Star, averaging 15.4 points and 3.4 rebounds through the first 5 games.
His 6-of-6 clip from long range ties the all-time record for most makes without a miss in a game along the likes of John Wilson, Simon Atkins, Vic Pablo and Glenn Capacio, per PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
The 28-year-old 5th year player's career performance came at the right time as Star brought in temporary replacement Ricardo Ratliffe. He arrived Saturday from South Korea to take over for Denzel Bowles, who had to fly back to the US to attend the wake of a family member. Bowles will reportedly be out for a week.
"He gives us a dimension that is very different," Webb said of Ratliffe, who finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists.
"He is a post-up guy. He makes his money there at the post. He runs. I really thought at the defensive end he blew up a lot of ball screens because of his ability to stay in front of the defense. He helped us in that part."
When asked whether Ratliffe will replace Bowles, Webb said, "Ricardo's here right now and he's impressed us."
James Yap added 10 points including 5 in key stretches of the payoff period as Star warded off TNT to break free from the 9th and final deadlock of the game, 81-all, with under 6 minutes to play.
"We were able to get the key stops. That was one thing we weren't able to get at the start of the conference."
The Hotshots, who are languishing at the bottom of the standings, avoided what could have been their worst start to an import-laden conference in 25 years as they rose to 2-4.
Jayson Castro led the defending champions with 18 points and 5 assists despite playing through a recurring Achilles injury, which he aggravated further in the endgame on a misstep as he hopped on one foot to the bench.
Ranidel De Ocampo had 15 markers and 6 boards while import David Simon settled for 12 points with 14 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Dylan Ababou and Moala Tautuaa had 11 points apiece as the Tropa fell to 2-4.
"Tough game given the situation that we're at not only just the standing but also that our import arrived just yesterday," Webb said. "But in the end gotta give it to these guys. So proud of them, rising above the challenge."
TNT fell prey to Star's zone defense and they blew an 18-point lead, 31-13, in the second quarter.
It was a welcome character win for the Hotshots, who out-rebounded their foes 54-41.
"First quarter I didn't think I'd be here," Webb admitted. "One thing we wanted to figure out was how it was to come back. Credit to the players who had that fortitude to come back from 18 points down."
Star (96): Maliksi 29, Ratliffe 23, Yap 10, Melton 8, Barroca 6, Pascual J. 6, Pingris 6, Pascual R. 3, Simon 3, Reavis 2, Sanggalang 0, Taha 0.
TNT (88): Castro 18, De Ocampo 15, Simon 12, Ababou 11, Tautuaa 11, Fonacier 6, Rosser 6, Williams 4, Reyes 3, Rosario 2, Aban 0.
Quarter scores: 13-26, 51-51, 66-73, 96-88.