Kia Picanto’s unconventional approach appeared to be in full effect, but the breaks of the game favored NLEX Road Warriors in the end-game as they came out victorious, 119-115, in their PBA season opener, Wednesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
“It was exactly what we expected, it was a hard-earned win for us,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao. “They (Kia) shot really well, especially in the first half. I don’t know if they were shooting well or we were playing bad defense in the first half.
“This Kia team is a lot stronger than they were last year. They’re playing small but they’re really quick. They’ve improved a lot with their offense,” added Guiao.
Kiefer Ravena had a sensational debut for NLEX, finishing with a double-double of 18 points and 12 assists. Big man Michael Miranda, despite fouling out late in the fourth and hurting his ankle, made his presence felt with 14 points.
“He’s exactly what we’re looking for, what the doctor ordered for us,” lauded Guiao of Ravena. “Kiefer played well for us. I had no doubt whatsoever that he can make an impact and he can lead the team as a rookie and that’s exactly what he did.
“He’s going to be a very special player in this league.”
The often-ridiculed Picanto showed flashes of how dangerous they could be this season, giving the more seasoned Road Warriors a tough time that even saw them bury the latter by as much as 13 points in the first half.
But then, NLEX fought back come the second half, being able to weather all the blows their counterparts gave them. And come crunchtime, inside the game’s last two minutes, the Road Warriors proved to be the much better squad.
Larry Fonacier completed a four-point play with a minute and six seconds remaining, giving NLEX a two-possession advantage, 117-113 — the cushion that proved to be too high for Kia to climb back from.
Kia still showed signs of life after Jay-R Reyes’ hook shot and Ravena’s missed triple on the other end, but shots by Philip Paniamogan and Reyes from the outside missed badly. JR Quiñahan’s freebies with three ticks iced the game.
“We’ll take this win no matter how hard it was. What we’re trying to do here is build momentum and confidence and chemistry in the team,” added Guiao on the victory.
Alex Mallari had 13 points for NLEX, while Quiñahan and Rabeh Al-Hussaini each finished with 12 points and combined for 15 boards.
Eric Camson led Kia with 24 markers on 9-of-19 shooting to go with nine rebounds. Rashawn McCarthy and Jackspm Corpuz had 14 and 13 points respectively.
NLEX will look to make it 2-0 on Christmas versus GlobalPort on Monday, December 25, 3:00 PM at the Philippine Arena. Kia will try to bounce back versus Phoenix next Wednesday, December 27, 4:15 PM, at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX 119 – Ravena 18, Miranda 14, Alas 14, Mallari 13, Fonacier 12, Al-Hussaini 12, Quiñahan 12, Tiongson 11, Baguio 5, Soyud 4, Ighalo 4, Taulava 0.
Kia 115 – Camson 24, McCarthy 14, Corpuz 13, Reyes 12, Galanza 12, Celda 9, Ababou 9, Khobuntin 8, Paniamogan 7, Tubid 4, Yee 3, Caperal 0.
Quarterscores: 36-40, 64-68, 90-92, 119-115.
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