VETERAN guard RJ Jazul gave Phoenix Super LPG the poise and composure it needed in holding off Rain or Shine, 106-102, Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Jazul highlighted his team-high 25 points with a six-point cluster that broke the Fuel Masters out of an 87-86 count, before booming in a triple that pegged a 106-100 count that practically sealed the game in the last 31 seconds.
Phoenix's second straight win after starting the tournament with back-to-back losses was made official after Gabe Norwood made a layup and Rey Nambatac missed a triple try in the game's final plays.
"Nagkataon lang na sinuwerte sa latter part saka I have to be composed... para hindi ma-rattle ang grupo," was how the 36-year-old Jazul summarized his heroics that saw him shoot 7-for-10 from the field, including 6-for-8 from deep.
Jazul's last shot of the game could not have come at a better time as it countered fellow Letran alumnus Rey Nambatac's own triple that brought the Elasto Painters tantalizingly within 100-103, capping a gallant stand that saw them refusing to wilt despite trailing by 16 points early and by much as 45-63, early in the third period.
Matthew Wright, chiefly responsible for Phoenix's early breakaway, finished with 20 points, six rebounds and as many assists while Jason Perkins added 17 points and nine rebounds and Sean Anthony 14 and seven.
It was the third straight loss in four games for Rain or Shine despite the game-high 27 points of Nambatac, who sat out an 80-85 loss to Barangay Ginebra last Wednesday due to muscle spasms.
Beau Belga bucked foul trouble to finish with 15 points while Mike Nieto, Andrei Caracut and Ponferrada added at least 10 points each.
Caracut, Leonard Santillan and Nambatac were at the forefront of Rain or Shine's initial furious uprising, pulling the E-Painters to as close as 86-87.
But Jewel Ponferrada was whistled for a landing spot-F1 on Jazul while the latter was attempting a trey. Jazul calmly netted all three free throws and then made a catch-and-shoot 3 in the ensuing possession to jack the lead back up to 93-86.
Nambatac, who went into the game averaging just 7.0 points, already had 12 at the half and was chiefly responsible in keeping Rain or Shine within nine points after trailing by as much as 16 points earlier in the second period.
Jazul also scored 12 points in his first 11 minutes on the floor and his two triples sparked Phoenix's surge from a 33-25 lead and into its first sizable lead at 45-29, with main help coming from Perkins and Larry Muyang. (NC)
Phoenix 106 - Jazul 25, Wright 20, Perkins 17, Anthony 14, Muyang 11, Tio 7, Porter 4, Serrano 4, Mocon 2, Pascual 2, Garcia 0, Lalata 0, Rios 0, Melecio 0.
Rain or Shine 102 - Nambatac 27, Belga 15, Nieto 12, Caracut 12, Ponferrada 10, Santillan 9, Demusis 9, Asistio 3, Norwood 3, Torres 2, Mamuyac 0.
Quarters: 33-25, 54-45, 85-81, 106-100