Phoenix finally got the confidence-boosting win that it needed as it floored NorthPort, 97-87, to improve its place in the 2019 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Matthew Wright was on target with a game-high 25 points, five rebounds and six assists to lead Phoenix while Richard Howell was likewise solid with his double-double with 18 points and 15 boards.
This time around, the Fuel Masters held their own down the stretch to take care of business in crunch time, something they were not able to do much in their previous losses.
A 17-5 run to start the fourth proved critical for Phoenix as it was able to stretch its then three-point lead to double-digits, 81-66, after Wright’s triple with 6:51 remaining.
With complete control, the Fuel Masters kept the Batang Pier at bay the rest of the way to finally stop the erstwhile league-leader on its tracks.
NorthPort, with a help of some triples, narrowed the gap towards the end but eventually fell short.
Phoenix improved to 3-4 to move to ninth place while NorthPort slipped to second after falling to 7-2.
RJ Jazul added 17 points for Phoenix.
Things got heated early in the fourth at the 8:44 mark when Howell and NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio had an exchange of words. Still, cooler heads prevailed to prevent the commotion from escalating.
Technical fouls were handed out to both of them for the verbal exchange.
It was actually NorthPort who got off to a good start, opening up an early double-digit lead, 26-16, in the closing seconds of the opening period.
Phoenix then stormed back and opened up the second canto with a 21-6 surge to snatch control and take a 40-34 cushion with a little over four minutes left before halftime.
At intermission, the Fuel Masters kept a 43-39 advantage.
Mo Tautuua led NorthPort with a team-high 19 points.
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