AS ordered, Manny Harris did not score as much but still played a big role as NLEX walloped Rain or Shine last night to hit a twin target in the PBA Governors Cup at the Astrodome.
Harris notched 29 points, way below his two-game norm of 42.5, but added 12 rebounds and a personal league-high 11 assists for his first triple double in the season-ending conference that powered the Road Warriors to their fourth straight win, a 111-91 decision.
Jericho Cruz, Kiefer Ravena and JP Erram came off the bench to act as chief backstop to their import as NLEX officially claimed a quarterfinals slot and took over top spot from previous victim TNT with a 7-1 record.
“Right now, we’re in the position where we want to be,” said Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao, whose team did not make it past the eliminations in the current season’s first two conferences, even finishing in the cellar in the last Commissioner’s Cup.
That makes occupying the top spot, even if only for a short time, that much sweeter.
“Ni sa panaginip hindi namin akalain na makaka-number 1 kami at this point in the tournament,” admitted Guiao.
“We go into a 12-day break, so we will enjoy the break for the meantime. But I know na very fragile ito,” added Guiao, whose team next takes on Magnolia on Nov. 10.
“Alam namin na konting mali mo, p’wede kang bumagsak. I hope we could hold on to it as long as we can. Importante lang sa amin maka-top four kami para may twice-to-beat advantage.”
More wins in their last three elimination round games and NLEX could even realize a top four finish that carries with it a win-once advantage over a lower-ranked foe in the eight-team quarterfinals.
The loss, its seventh in nine games, dropped Rain or Shine to the bottom of the 12-man field.
Richard Ross, the Elasto Painters’ fourth import for the conference, had a decent debut with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists but was plagued by foul trouble that limited him to just over 28 minutes of action.
That only worsened the manpower troubles of Rain or Shine, which went into the game missing the services of the injured James Yap (groin) but also had to make do without Rey Nambatac (ankle).
Javee Mocon was foremost among those who tried to pick up the slack, tallying 17 points on top of eight boards.
Jewel Ponferrada and Kris Rosales also tried their best and wound up with at least 10 points each, but those were simply not enough to sustain a fine start by the E-Painters that netted them as much as a 25-13 lead in the first quarter.
As the game wore on, however, NLEX’s game continued cranking up at least a notch with Harris leading the way by design, according to Guiao.
“Good thing about Manny is, nag-uusap kami,” related Guiao. “Sinasabi ko sa kanya, ‘You don’t have to score that many points. You facilitate, you involve the others, we can still win, spread out our offense.’ Naintindihan n’ya iyon. ‘Yun kasing 40, 40-plus points every game that is not sustainable. We know we still have to rely on the team and move the ball around, find the open people.”
With Ravena adding six dimes and Cruz five, NLEX wound up with 28 assists to Rain or Shine’s 18.
The Road Warriors also overcame their rough shooting start to finish making 43 of 83 shots to the E-Painters’ 37-of-98 clip.