PBA 2024: A resilient Phoenix emerges from the ashes and challenges Magnolia in Game 4

Jan 31, 2024

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MANILA, Philippines – In a remarkable display of tenacity and skill, the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters orchestrated a stunning comeback in Game 3 of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series against the Magnolia Hotshots. Overcoming a daunting 21-point deficit, the Fuel Masters secured a thrilling 103-85 victory at the Mall of Asia Arena, injecting new life into their championship aspirations.

Faced with the prospect of a series sweep after losing the first two games, Phoenix approached Game 3 with a resolute determination not to succumb without a fight. The team’s refusal to concede became evident as they battled through adversity, displaying unwavering resilience on the court.

The turning point came in the third period when the Fuel Masters flipped the script on the Hotshots. Trailing by as many as 21 points in the first half, Phoenix emerged from the halftime break with a newfound intensity. The third quarter unfolded as a masterclass in comeback basketball, with the Fuel Masters outscoring Magnolia by a staggering 33-16 margin. This extraordinary surge not only erased the deficit but propelled Phoenix into the lead, establishing a 71-67 advantage heading into the decisive fourth quarter.

Import Johnathan Williams emerged as a key catalyst during this pivotal stretch, delivering a stellar performance with 19 points and 15 rebounds. His energy, combined with a relentless physicality, ignited the Fuel Masters’ comeback, setting the stage for an electrifying finish. The local contingent, including Kenneth Tuffin, Sean Manganti, and others, played integral roles by making crucial contributions that overwhelmed the Hotshots during the pivotal third quarter.

With this resounding comeback victory, the Fuel Masters not only avoided elimination but also forced a Game 4, scheduled for Wednesday. The triumph symbolizes Phoenix’s refusal to bow out gracefully, showcasing their ability to rally together and compete at the highest level. As the series progresses, the Fuel Masters are now in a prime position to capitalize on their newfound momentum, hoping to extend the battle and keep their championship dreams alive in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

In the fourth quarter, veteran sniper RJ Jazul caught absolute fire, nailing four straight triples early in the frame to give the Fuel Masters an 85-71 advantage. Jason Perkins added a three-point play to make it 88-73 Phoenix, essentially sealing the remarkable comeback.

Even after Magnolia’s Calvin Abueva completed a three-point play of his own to cut it to 91-78, Phoenix finished strong with a 14-7 closing kick. In all, six Fuel Masters scored in double figures to offset the loss of top gunner Matthew Wright.

Williams recorded a powerful double-double of 19 points and 15 boards on top of 4 assists and 2 blocks. The hard-nosed Jazul provided a huge spark with 17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. Tuffin, Manganti, and JVee Casio had 14 points apiece, while Perkins chipped in 13 points and 9 boards.

It was a total team effort as Phoenix simply overwhelmed the Hotshots in the second half. After shooting just 34% in the first half, the Fuel Masters shot a blistering 71% after halftime, including 9-of-16 from deep. Meanwhile, Magnolia completely fell apart offensively after building their big lead.

Leading MVP candidate Paul Lee had just 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting for the Hotshots after exploding for 37 points in Game 2. Import Romeo Travis struggled with foul trouble and low energy, finishing with just 9 points and 7 rebounds. No other Magnolia player scored in double figures.

In the end, Phoenix’s unwavering belief in themselves and remarkable resiliency allowed them to make history. No team in PBA playoff history had ever come back from a 21-point deficit entering the second half to win. But the Fuel Masters’ explosive 38-16 run from the start of the third quarter to the early fourth quarter shocked the Hotshots and changed the complexion of the series.

Now down 2-1, Phoenix faces yet another must-win situation in Game 4. But with the momentum from their epic Game 3 victory, the Fuel Masters are feeling confident they can extend the series to a deciding Game 5. After such a demoralizing collapse, Magnolia finds themselves on the ropes needing to regain their composure quickly.

Game 4 promises to be another thriller as Phoenix tries to keep their dream run alive, while Magnolia looks to close out the series at the first opportunity to avoid giving the Fuel Masters any more life. If Phoenix can channel the energy and intensity they displayed during their epic Game 3 comeback, they could be on their way to one of the greatest series comebacks in PBA history.

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