NLEX keeps playoff bid alive with big comeback over Meralco

NLEX’s road to the playoffs continues.

The Road Warriors crawled out from a huge 18-point hole to pull the rug from under the Meralco Bolts, 92-81, and stay in contention for a playoff spot in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

Earl Clark provides a huge lift for NLEX to stay alive in playoff hunt (PBA Images)

NLEX unleashed a massive fourth quarter rally that ultimately turned things around to end the elimination with a two-game win streak and improve to a 5-7 record in the standings. More important, the victory put the Road Warriors in the equation for the remaining quarterfinals slot while also eliminating the Bolts in the process.

However, stars must still align to NLEX favor as it prays for a Rain or Shine loss against Magnolia to forge a possible playoff for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs.

Import Earl Clark feasted on the depleted Meralco frontline which was missing the services of Raymond Almazan due to an ankle injury. He made sure to give his team its best chance to punch a ticket to the next round and dropped 25 of his 40 points in the second half on top of his 11 rebounds.

Don Trollano also picked up where he left off finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds while Brandon Ganuelas Rosser added 10.

“All I ask of my team is to be decent on defense and make stops that would trigger the offense. They enjoy running, they enjoy going on offense and it’s like the rewards for making stops. I think that’s what happened in the second half,” said NLEX head coach Frankie Lim.

“I just made them realize that they are not playing at par and could be disastrous and it showed in the first half when we’re down 18 points. Things got better in the third quarter, we started having stops that made our life easier,” he added.

Still down by 14, the Road Warriors embarked on the first of their two massive rallies in the second half, cutting the lead down to just five courtesy of a 14-1 spurt spearheaded by Clark.

Meralco started to find some answers to keep NLEX at the rear, 75-66, early in the final frame but the second wind of the Road Warriors onslaught came with a backbreaking 22-2 run capped by a Mike Miranda triple and a drive from Clark.

When the dust settled NLEX already took the driver's seat, 85-77, and went on to cruise to the victory as the blitzing offense from the Bolts in the first half completely abandoned them in the final two quarters.

KJ McDaniels paced Meralco with 22 points and nine rebounds while Aaron Black, after finishing with 17 in the first two quarters, was totally silenced in the second half.