MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Phoenix Super LPG earned a share of the lead in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup after holding off NorthPort Batang Pier, 110-105, on Thursday night at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga.
Jason Perkins tallied a career-best 31 points, including a pair of insurance free throws with 12 seconds left, while also grabbing 12 rebounds. Matthew Wright, after a 36-point explosion in their first game against Meralco, showed off another facet of his game as he dished out nine dimes to go along with his 23 points.
The Fuel Masters improved to 2-0 inside the bubble, tying idle TNT Tropang Giga at the top of the team standings.
"It's a blessing for us to be given an opportunity to grow," said Phoenix's interim head coach, Topex Robinson. "We expected that this was gonna be a tough battle."
He praised Wright for his unselfishness, as the veteran guard offset a subpar 5-of-13 shooting night with his playmaking. Robinson also got a big performance from Justin Chua, who had 17 points and his three big triples before fouling out late.
A 6-0 blast to start the third quarter gave the Fuel Masters a 10-point spread, 61-51, and they nursed that advantage heading into the final frame. But NorthPort got going in the payoff period, with Garvo Lanete giving them an 86-85 lead off a triple with 8:50 to go.
It proved to be a short-lived advantage for the Batang Pier. Perkins immediately responded with a triple of his own to restore Phoenix's lead, and it was a nip-and-tuck game from there as the Fuel Masters had to hold off NorthPort's repeated rallies.
Kevin Ferrer led the charge for NorthPort, waxing hot from beyond the arc and drilling three straight three-pointers that kept them within striking distance. Phoenix had an answer every time, however, with Chua also finding his range from deep, before a Perkins layup made it a nine-point game, 103-94, with just over three minutes left.
A layup by Christian Standhardinger put NorthPort within four, 103-99, with a minute and a half to go, but Wright drained a three-pointer -- his fourth of the game -- to put Phoenix back up by seven points.
The Batang Pier last threatened when Ferrer drilled a triple to make it a two-point game, 106-104, with 13 seconds left. But Perkins coolly knocked down his charities on the other end to end NorthPort's comeback hopes.
Standhardinger had a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Sean Anthony finished with a triple-double of 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.
But Standhardinger struggled at the free throw line, missing 10 of his 16 attempts. NorthPort, as a team, made just 25 of 42 freebies in what turned out to be a five-point defeat.
NorthPort dropped to 0-2 in the Philippine Cup.