#PBA2015 PREVIEW: NLEX ROAD WARRIORS vs BLACKWATER ELITE - DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

Game is on February 17, 2015.

The NLEX Road Warriors, despite a much publicized build-up in Dubai and having a bona fide former NBA player, still have yet to win in the Commish Cup. In three games, the Road Warriors have come up short, with their last loss against Purefoods proving to be somewhat of an embarrassment (62-87). With some tough foes awaiting them, the Road Warriors will need to win now to spark something moving forward.

The Blackwater Elite, on the other hand, were impressive in their upset of the San Miguel Beermen, 80-77. With efficient play and some clutch shooting, the Elite were able to pocket their first win in franchise history. This should boost their confidence heading into this match and help them prove that their win over SMB was no fluke.



Here are some things to look at in this match:

1. THORNTON CAN’T GET IT ON
- Al Thornton, being a former NBA player who was occasionally effective, was expected to do wonders for an NLEX team that desperately needed consistent offense from the wings. He has, however, been a bit underwhelming. Yes, he did score a combined 67 points in his first two games, but that 11-point stinker against Purefoods is what really stands out. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds after such a bad game, and he has a golden opportunity against a Blackwater team that will probably have nobody who can really stop him.

First two games: 33.5ppg, 12.5rpg, 40.0 3pt%, 46.7 FG%
Last game: 11pts, 7rebs, 1/5 3pt shooting, 21.4 FG%


2. CANALETA CAN
- After a lackluster Philippine Cup, KG Canaleta seems to have finally gotten back into the groove of things for the Road Warriors. He has been productive in limited minutes in NLEX’s past two games, and he, along with Aldrech Ramos, should prove to be a match-up nightmare against Blackwater. If Canaleta can light things up from rainbow country like he has for the past couple of contests, then NLEX shouldn’t have much trouble derailing the Elite.

Phil. Cup stats: 7.5ppg, 1.3 triples per game, 28.1 3pt%, 33.7 FG%
Last two games: 14.5ppg, 3.5 triples per game, 50.0 3pt%, 50.0 FG%


3. LEANING ON THE ROCK
- When one talks about NLEX, it’s inevitable that Asi Taulava gets brought up. He has, after all, proven to be the heart and soul of this team. At 41 years old, The Rock still defies all expectations by averaging a double-double, and, well, NLEX would be nowhere without his imposing interior presence. Against a team like Blackwater, Asi should be able to be dominant once again.
Asi stats: 11.0ppg, 11.0rpg, 1.7apg, 44.4 FG%.


4. MAC CARDONA x ALEX NUYLES
- One match-up to watch in this game is this one between veteran Mac Cardona and young gun Alex Nuyles. Both have struggled so far this conference, but they can break their respective slumps by breaking out in this game. Cardona has yet to score in double-figures this conference, though he did come close with 9 points against Purefoods. If he can be a reliable scoring option against Blackwater, NLEX should experience smooth sailing. Nuyles, meanwhile, still hasn’t really settled into any kind of rhythm for the Elite yet, but his 8 points in 13 minutes against SMB was mighty promising. If he can regain the explosiveness and confidence he showed in his rookie season, the Elite could be in for another upset win. 

Cardona stats: 6.7ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.0spg
Cardona last game: 9pts, 6rebs, 2stls

Nuyles stats: 4.7ppg, 50.0 FG%
Nuyles last game: 8pts, 60.0 FG%


5. JET-LAGGED DOUTHIT?
“Marcus will attend to some personal matters in Los Angeles, then he’ll be back on Monday so he can re-join us on Tuesday,” according to Blackwater alternate governor Wilbert Loa (from Spin.ph).

- Even if Douthit does manage to come back to Manila and rejoin GlobalPort on time, how effective will he be? Will he be jet-lagged, or will his quick trip back to the States have absolutely no effect on his productivity? He has been a god-send for the Elite so far, and it’s not hard to see that without him, Blackwater’s chances of winning are next to nil.

Douthit stats: 21.3ppg, 13.0rpg, 3.7apg, 1.3spg, 3.3bpg, 50.9 FG%


6. HELLA GOOD HERUELA
- In the Elite’s huge upset over SMB, one guy who really played well was Cebu product Brian Heruela. Heruela unloaded one of his best pro games so far, hitting 5 of his 8 FGs on his way to 11 points while also grabbing 9 rebounds and handing out 5 assists. He pretty much outplayed veterans Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross, who combined for just 9 points and 5 assists on 2/11 FG shooting. If Heruela can be consistent with this kind of play, the Elite have a diamond in the rough in their hands. 

Heruela Phil Cup stats: 9.3ppg, 4.8rpg, 5.0apg, 1.0spg, 44.1 FG%, 25.5mpg
Heruela Comm Cup stats: 10.0ppg, 6.3rpg, 4.5apg, 2.3spg, 50.0 FG%, 30.8mpg


7. FAB FAUNDO
- Another Blackwater player who has been unheralded but effective is Bryan Faundo. It wasn’t too long ago when he seemed like a forgotten man and was perceived to be out of the league, but he has really come on of late. He has scored in double-digits in every game so far this conference and has been solid despite going up against bigger and more athletic imports. He’ll have his hands full against Asi tonight, but if he can be productive, then Blackwater has a chance.

Comm Cup stats: 14.8ppg, 6.5rpg, 50.9 FG%

Last match-up with Asi Taulava:
Asi: 24pts, 10rebs, 5asts, 8/11 FGs (playing with Converse All-Star sneakers!)
Faundo: 9pts, 8rebs, 1ast, 4/10 FGs


8. A LOT OF WORK TO BE DONE
- The NLEX Road Warriors have been shooting poorly this conference. In fact, only one team has been shooting worse than them — the San Miguel Beermen. Another worrisome thing is that NLEX is also at or near the bottom in terms of rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, fastbreak points, and points allowed. Needless to say, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done for this team to make any sort of positive impact.

Team Stats:
Pts allowed: 93.0 per game (11th)
FG shooting: 36.6% (11th)
Rebounding: 45.3 per game (11th)
Assists: 11.0 per game (last)
Steals: 5.0 per game (10th)
Blocks: 1.3 per game (last)
Fastbreak Pts: 5.3 per game (11th)


9. PREVIOUS MEETING: NLEX BLEW OUT BLACKWATER 
- The NLEX Road Warriors, behind another vintage performance from ageless star center Asi Taulava, cruised past old PBA D-League rival Blackwater, 104-84, to end a three-game losing skid. Taulava scored 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists in a strong performance. He also shot 8-for-11 from the field and 8-for-11 from the free throw line. Mac Cardona added 21 points, 16 in the first half, along with seven boards and five assists for the Road Warriors, while three other NLEX players finished in double figures. Villanueva scored 17 points while Aldrech Ramos, who completed a rare four-point play in the fourth quarter, added 16. Mark Borboran finished with 10. Blackwater (0-8) was led by Ogie Menor, who scored 15.

NLX leaders:
Asi Taulava - 24pts, 10rebs, 5asts, 8/11 FGs.
Mac Cardona - 21pts, 7rebs, 5asts, 2stls, 8/14 FGs.
Jonas Villanueva - 17pts, 7rebs, 5asts, 1stl, 6/11 FGs.

BLA leaders:
Ogie Menor - 15pts, 4rebs
Robby Celiz - 11pts 2rebs, 3asts
Riego Gamalinda - 10pts, 5rebs, 2asts


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