Ranged against Meralco’s wide-bodied import Arinze Onuaku, NLEX slotman Asi Taulava had to dig deep into his wealth of basketball experience Friday night.
The result was a 104-99 victory against the league-leader Meralco Bolts.
The Fil-Tongan big man used every bit of his 6-9 frame to shadow Onuaku, while import Al Thornton, who banged in 38 points, along with Enrico Villanueva provided the additional body against Meralco’s heavyweight import.
Onuaku still managed to finish with 16 points and 18 rebounds, but the former Syracuse Orangeman only had 12 attempts in the game overall.
After the game, Taulava said Onuaku reminded him a lot of Iranian giant Hamed Haddadi because of the way the Meralco import uses his left hand for a short stab inside.
“The way he (Onuaku) uses his left hand, that reminds me a lot of Haddadi, but as far as skill-wise, I think Haddadi is more skillful,” said Taulava, who had numerous hardcourt battles with the Iranian star slotman during his numerous stints with the Philippine team.
Onuaku was actually coming off a monster performance of 28 points and 30 rebounds in the team’s 86-94 loss to San Miguel last week.
“The guy is still big, still good. I’m not taking anything away from him,” he said.
“We know when he’s gonna turn left, he uses his left really well and we’re just waiting on him every time he catches the ball,” added Taulava, the oldest active PBA player at 43.
The win vaulted the Road Warriors to a tie with Blackwater Elite, Mahindra Enforcers and the Barangay Ginebra Kings at 3-3 in the middle of the standings.
NLEX will be shooting for its 1st back-to-back wins for the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup when it faces sister team and defending champion Tropang TNT on Sunday at the Philsports Arena. – By Richard Dy
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