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MANILA, Philippines – Defending champions Tropang TNT climbed themselves out of the cellar for the meantime after escaping the resilient NLEX Road Warriors, 85-80, in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday, March 13 at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig.
The Tropa improved their record to 3-4 for a 3-way tie for 8th place with the likewise struggling Star Hotshots and the Road Warriors.
“We just needed this win to hopefully get over the hump,” said head coach Jong Uichico. “We were falling down in the standings. We really needed this win.”
TNT missed the services of guard Jayson Castro, who is nursing an Achilles injury and a sprained ankle. Uichico hopes Castro, who remained on the bench but still suited up to boost team morale, will be able to play on Monday, March 21 against Rain or Shine.
Uichico admitted he has no specific targets for the playoffs given their slow start, except that they improve.
“I’ve no projections really. I’m just trying to get as many wins as I can. I’m just trying to get this team to play with more gusto.”
Import David Simon topscored for TNT with 23 points to go with 16 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks despite fouling out with a minute remaining.
Harvey Carey and Jai Reyes provided support off the bench with 11 points apiece.
Al Thornton posted 35 points and 15 rebounds for NLEX while Garvo Lanete added 20 points.
TNT came dangerously close to a massive meltdown after blowing a 27-point lead in the second frame. The Tropa allowed the Road Warriors to come back despite starting the contest on a 24-2 blitz.
NLEX came as close as 78-81 with over a minute left after cutting down the deficit to 61-67 heading into the fourth.
TNT (85): Simon 23, Carey 11, J Reyes 11, De Ocampo 9, Rosser 9, Rosario 8, Ababou 6, Tautuaa 4, Williams 4, Fonacier 0, Reyes 0.
NLEX (80): Thornton 35, Lanete 20, Anthony 7, Enciso 7, E. Villanueva 5, Alas 3, Taulava 3, Arboleda 0, Khobuntin 0, Reyes 0, J Villanueva 0.
Quarter scores: 34-15, 54-35, 67-61, 85-80.