RJ Jazul heats up at the right time for Phoenix in PBA semis

Phoenix Fuel Masters’ RJ Jazul in the PBA semifinals series against Magnolia Hotshots. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—RJ Jazul heated up at the right moment to keep Phoenix alive in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals at Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday.

After scoring just three points in the opening half where the Fuel Masters trailed big, 51-38, Jazul woke up in the latter part of the game to remind the PBA spectators why he’s the captain of Phoenix.

The sweet shooter finished with 17 points built on five triples to give the Fuel Masters another day to live for Game 4 after their 103-85 win over Magnolia.

The motivation to not repeat the same mistakes in Games 1 and 2 was there but the main reason for Jazul’s remarkable outing was the fact that he and the rest of the Fuel Masters didn’t want to go home just yet.

“We don’t want to go home. Like what coach (Jamike Jarin) said, this is a do-or-die for us and we got practice tomorrow. It would be a shame if we scheduled that and we lost today,” said the veteran guard.

“We never gave up. Of course, being down by almost 20 in the semis is a lot but thanks to my teammates, we took one step at a time until we got our rhythms.

WATCH: Phoenix coach Jamike Jarin and RJ Jazul after the victory over Magnolia. | @MeloFuertesINQ pic.twitter.com/2OKTtNd8Nz

— INQUIRER Sports (@INQUIRERSports) January 28, 2024

After a lackluster start, Phoenix suddenly came out looking like the Phoenix of the elimination round, going on a red-hot 33-point third quarter to zoom past the Hotshots.

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It didn’t help Magnolia’s cause that Jazul wasn’t the only one who caught fire in the second half with five more players scoring in double digits in Johnathan Williams III (19), Sean Manganti (14), Javee Mocon (14), Ken Tuffin (14) and Jason Perkins (13).

But that balanced scoring wouldn’t have come to fruition without the leadership of Jazul, who earned praise from an ecstatic Jarin after the game.

“We’re in a do-or-die, we experienced it already so we’ll be ready for Game 3. You just have to be happy and proud of RJ, who’s been mentoring a lot of young men, he is just an inspiration,” said the coach.

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“I’m telling you this, captain RJ Jazul will be a very, very, very good coach someday. Not now, he still wants to play,” added Jarin in jest.

Jazul, Jarin and the Fuel Masters look to live another day on Wednesday when they clash against Magnolia anew at the same venue.

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