Matthew Wright delivers for Phoenix despite illness
MANILA, Philippines—Phoenix swingman Matthew Wright was experiencing bronchitis-like symptoms prior to Game 3 against defending champion San Miguel in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals that Fuel Masters head coach Louie Alas decided to not even let his star shooter participate in practice.
Alas said that Wright was only required to attend practice but was allowed to sit out through the team drills to prevent himself from aggravating any illness the sharpshooter may have.
Wright, however, wasn’t about to let some sickness sideline him for the pivotal third game that he forced Alas to put him into the starting lineup.
“I have a little but of a sore throat but you got to man up,” said Wright. “This is the playoffs, everybody’s aching, no one’s feeling 100 percent. We have a job to do and no way was I going to miss the game.”
Wright’s persistence eventually paid off after the Fuel Mastets took Game 3, 92-90, and pulled within 2-1 in the best-of-seven series Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Alas said that he could have given Wright the dayoff but the star wingman was adamant to play against the Beermen, who are seeking their sixth straight Philippine Cup.
“I could’ve let Matt rest this one out but he really wanted to play, he even got into foul trouble,” said Alas in Filipino. “He got 20 minutes of playing time but he played that sparingly. I just wish his bronchitis doesn’t get worse so I have to commend him for his resiliency.”
Wright eventually finished with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field but his biggest shots were the ones from the stripe where he converted seven of his eight free throw attempts, including six inside the final 50 seconds of the game.
His two free throws 21.1 seconds to go gave Phoenix a 92-88 lead and that was enough for the Fuel Masters to hold on to the win.
“I got fouled, I had to go to the line and I got to make them,” said Wright. “I missed a free throw earlier but I knew once I get to the free throw line I just try to ignore the noise and shoot the way I’ve been shooting for years.”
“We really needed those free throws down the stretch and thankfully the ball was in my hands and I was able to get fouled,” added Wright.