By Patrick Sutare
PASAY--The PBA is back, so is San Miguel on the winning track.
As it appeared, the SEABA break was all that the Beermen needed to rediscover their form and bounce back from the first loss they suffered against TNT.
[Related Story: TNT, Greene put streaking San Miguel in losing column]
At the resumption of the Commissioner's Cup on Friday, SMB foiled NLEX, 114-108, at the Cuneta Astrodome and captured back the top position in the team standings at 6-1.
NLEX, on the other hand, stays in slumber as not even a revamped line-up could bail them out from the winless slump.
Charles Rhodes was at the cutting edge of the win, being a monster paint patroller to pace SMB with 37 points and 19 rebounds. Chris Ross was once again the efficient orchestrator, finishing with a double-double of 15 markers and 11 dimes.
The Road Warriors actually started the game using a three-guard line up of Carlo Lastimosa, Kevin Alas and new acquisition Alex Mallari as coach Yeng Guiao immediately employed his running game system right off the bat. It yielded dividends for a while as they went steps ahead from the Beermen during the early minutes of the match.
The guys in purple, however, still found themselves trailing after one, 36-22, as the powerhouse Beermen countered their field day in transition with a flurry of buckets from deep, three of which coming from Ross.
The half still belonged to SMB, 60-43.
In one sequence in the third frame, NLEX had the chance to flip the momentum via two-on-one fastbreak as Juami Tiongson and Lastimosa had Ross in his lonesome to beat. As it turned out, the defensive lynchpin was able to deny the breakaway connection from the NLEX guards that eventually led to a Marcio Lassiter trey to complete a five-point swing.
At that point, the Beermen were already ahead by 21, 81-60, before ending the third canto with an 89-73 lead.
Later in the final period, the Road Warriors would instigate a fight back. Two separate inside baskets from Rabeh Al Hussaini and Wayne Chism pulled NLEX to within eight, 104-96, approaching the final three minutes of the game.
But Rhodes piloted SMB in the clutch, holding through the distance till the time expired.
The win boosts SMB's bid of chasing the twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals, while NLEX, who played with virtually no loads on its back after being officially eliminated from playoff contention ahead of the match, falls to 0-9.
Chism led the team's scoring with 22.
Mallari and another new Road Warrior JR Quinahan had decent outputs for NLEX with the former tallying 11 and the latter with 12.
Larry Fonacier, who was also part of the multi-team swap, failed to see action for the first time for NLEX.
Meanwhile, coming off a gold medal finish at the SEABA Championship just a day ago, Junemar Fajardo suited up and shrugged off fatigue to contribute 12 points, four rebounds and two assists to the Beermen.
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