Barako Bull outlasts NLEX behind RR Garcia's clutch play
MANILA, Philippines - With under a minute to go and the contest on the line, the littlest man on the court came up with the biggest rebound of the game.
After melting the clock, RR Garcia attacked a much taller and wider Macmac Cardona, who did everything he could to quell his opponent's left driving lane. Garcia, however, spun right, then converted a tough floater that put his squad ahead, 86-81, with 29.8 seconds to go.
The NLEX Road Warriors were unable to bounce back, and suffered their third straight defeat, this time to the Barako Bull Energy Cola, 92-87, on Tuesday afternoon, December 2, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The win improves Barako Bull's record to 4-6, while NLEX falls to 3-7 and is in danger of missing out on a playoff seed in the 2014-2015 PBA Philippine Cup Conference with a critical matchup against the KIA Sorento on the horizon.
"The motivation is to use this as preparation for the coming playoffs. It's not about winning the game; it's about preparing ourselves, stretching ourselves, dito sa (for the) upcoming playoffs," Barako Bull head coach Koy Banal said after the game.
"Everybody's happy... yun yung emphasis namin (that was our emphasis) from day one - we want to be in the same page, we want to stay as a team all throughout the conference."
Garcia finished with a career-high 22 points, pulled down 5 rebounds, and made 9 of his 15 attempts from the field. Chico Lanete, Willie Wilson, and Mick Pennisi all finished in double figures, recording 13, 13, and 12 points, respectively.
NLEX was led by Cardona, who scored 23 points and grabbed 5 rebounds but threw away 7 turnovers. Asi Taulava finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds, but took only 9 shots.
The Road Warriors were ahead 68-62 early in the fourth quarter, but let the Energy go on a game-changing 11-1 run that put them ahead, 73-69 by the time the starters returned to the game.
Minutes later, Garcia nailed a clutch 3-ball that gave the Energy a 80-73 lead with 3:43 to go. After Cardona nailed two free throws - he totaled 8-of-9 for the entire game - Wilson was left open in the corner and hit a 3-ball of his own that pushed Barako's lead to 8.
Just when it seemed like NLEX was down for the kill, Cardona converted more free throws and later on Taulava completed an and-one play that cut the deficit to three, 84-81.
The Road Warriors were then able to get a stop, forcing Barako to take a long shot near mid-court with the shot clock winding down. However, NLEX was unable to coral the rebound, which led to Garcia's game-clinching basket over Cardona.
Barako shot just 41% from the field but did a great job of forcing 20 NLEX turnovers that led to 20 points. The Energy had 12 offensive rebounds to the Road Warriors' 12, and dominated the second chance points department, 20-8.
Garcia and company also had more fastbreak points, 9-3, and received 50 markers from their bench, while NLEX's supporting cast put up just 22 points.
Barako Bull will be back in action on Saturday, December 6, when they take on the Purefoods Star Hotshots in Dipolog City. NLEX will look to clinch a playoff berth with a win over a struggling KIA team on Sunday, December 7.
Barako Bull (92): Garcia 22, Lanete 13, Wilson 13, Pennisi 12, Intal 10, Marcelo 7, Pascual 6, Lastimosa 5, Miranda 4, Pena 0, Salvador 0, Paredes 0
NLEX (87): Cardona 23, Taulava 17, Borboran 9, Ramos 9, Villanueva E 8, Villanueva J 7, Canaleta 4, Arboleda H 3, Lingganay 2, Camson 2, Baloria 2, Apinan 1, Raymundo 0, Arboleda W 0
Quarter Scores: 18-18, 41-39, 62-66, 92-87