#PBA2016 PHILIPPINE CUP PREVIEW: NLEX ROAD WARRIORS vs MERALCO BOLTS - BREAKING THROUGH

Both NLX and MER are coming off huge breakthrough wins to prop up their chances of contending for a quarterfinal slot. The best way to do that, of course, is continue their breakthrough run beginning with a victory here.

NLX wasn’t expected to beat TNT, but when their stars waxed hot, not even TNT’s depth could stand a chance. Sean Anthony and Asi Taiulava had great games, but the key shots of Simon Enciso and Jonas Villanueva also proved to be very critical.

MER, meanwhile, finally nabbed win #1 of the season as they took advantage of the Hotshots’ woeful FG shooting and turnovers. If they can put a lot of pressure on NLX’s primary playmakers, the Road Warriors will have quite the difficult time to get a W here.





1. AMAZING ANTHONY
- Sean Anthony played the game of his life against his former team, TNT. The Fil-Canadian unloaded a career-high 32 points as the Road Warriors pulled the rug from under the Texters. Anthony was simply amazing in that game as he practically did everything and almost single-handedly carried his team to the win. He has actually been having a splendid run so far this season, and NLX will need him to continue that in this game against another one of his former teams.

Last game: 32pts, 12rebs, 2asts, 1stl, 11/17 FGs.
Stats: 20.8ppg, 13.6rpg, 4.2apg, 46.6 FG%


2. SIMON ENCISO: CATCHING FIRE
- When Enciso started the season, he hit 5 triples in a win against Blackwater. Since then, his play has fluctuated, but he reminded everyone how explosive he was by dropping 19 points against TNT. He caught fire again, hitting 3 triples, including some big shots in the crucial moments. If he can continue his efficient shooting, NLX will have the edge here.

In NLX wins: 12.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.0apg, 2.7 triples per game, 50.0 FG%.
In NLX losses: 9.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.5 triples per game, 46.2 FG%.


3. NLEX: STAY AGGRESSIVE
- NLX was very aggressive against TNT despite the fact they were playing catching up for most of that game. As a result, NLX was awarded 39 free throws compared to just 21 for TNT. The Road Warriors didn’t disappoint from the line as well, hitting 77% of their charities. That’s something they need to continue to do here. If they are aggressive here as well, they should have a strong chance to come up with their 4th win.

Last game FTs: NLX 30/39 (77%), TNT 14/21 (74%)
Pts in the Paint: NLX 52, TNT 40


4. GARY DAVID: FINDING WAYS TO SCORE
- David top-scored for MER anew in their win over STA, but the strange thing was he shot just 1/9 from three-point range and only made one free throw the entire game. That means that David found other ways to score as he shot 11/16 from the 2pt area. That’s a great sign for MER, which will need to rely heavily on David again in this game against NLX.

Last game: 26pts, 4rebs, 1ast, 1stl.
Stats: 21.2ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.0apg, 1.2spg, 2.5 triples per game. 


5. HUGNATAN + NABONG: THE BOLTS’ BASH BROTHERS
- Reynel Hugnatan and Kelly Nabong aren’t exactly top of mind when one is asked about the most scintillating big men in the league, but in MER’s 1st win of the season, both guys were solid. They combined for 19pts and 14rebs while also shooting 9/14 FGs. Against NLX’s hulking and versatile frontline, both of the Bolts’ bash brothers will need to step up again.

Hugnatan last game: 10pts, 10rebs, 2asts, 5/8 FGs.
Nabong last game: 9pts, 4rebs, 4/6 FGs.

Hugnatan stats: 5.8ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.0apg, 40.0 FG%
Nabong stats: 5.7ppg, 4.3rpg, 46.4 FG%


6. MER: DISTRIBUTION & DEFENSE
- In MER’s last game, they didn’t shoot well from the perimeter, they shot just 6 free throws, and they got outrebounded, but they still won thanks to distribution and defense. MER had 7 more assists than the Hotshots, and they also forced 23 turnovers from the Star side. Those are two crucial things for MER again in this game. If their playmaking is solid and their defense tight, they can upset NLX in this one.

Last game assists: MER 18, STA 11
Last game turnovers: MER 12, STA 23


7. KEY MATCH-UP: ASI TAULAVA X RABEH AL-HUSSAINI
- The match-up in the middle will be very important in this game. Old-timer Asi Taulava is coming off a strong double-double performance against TNT, while Rabeh Al-Hussaini continued to struggle a little big against the Star Hotshots. Al-Hussaini will have his hands full against the bigger and more experienced Taulava, but the former Ateneo center needs to hold his own lest the Rock puts up more monster numbers. Also, if Al-Hussaini can be effective around the basket, that may open things up on the perimeter, specifically for Gary David.

Taulava last game: 18pts, 18rebs, 2asts, 12/16 FTs.
Al-Hussaini last game: 12pts, 3rebs, 2asts, 3blks, 6/15 FGs.

Taulava stats: 20.0ppg, 14.0rpg, 2.8apg, 52.6 FG%
Al-Hussaini stats: 10.5ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.0apg, 1.0bpg, 49.1 FG%



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