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Big boost for Bolts

With Onuaku manning middle, Meralco makes push for playoff bonus;San Miguel Beer seals Nabong-Espinas deal with GlobalPort
By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 05:45 AM June 22, 2018

Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Arinze Onuaku’s massive frame has done wonders for Meralco—and created nightmares for other teams in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. Four straight victories so far attest to that.

“He’s controlling the inside for us,” said Meralco coach Norman Black of his hulking import, who attracts the defense, leaving most of the Bolts with open looks at the rim.

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Onuaku will literally be in the middle of things anew as the Bolts face the TNT KaTropa Friday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, aiming to inch closer to a valuable twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs.

But he will have to deal with another giant physical force in TNT’s Josh Smith, whose similar efficiency has been overshadowed by back-to-back losses that pulled the KaTropa down to a 6-3 record.

The Bolts definitely have the psychological edge entering their 7 p.m. after stopping the streaking Alaska Aces on their tracks with a 15-point victory.

“It’s a critical game on our bid to gain a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. We have control of our fate but we have to keep on winning,” said Black.

“If we lose, we go down in the team standings as quickly,” added Black.

TNT practically has the same mind-set as coach Nash Racela seeks to win their last two games against the Bolts and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters for a chance to earn a twice-to-beat edge.

The top two teams after the 11-game elimination secure the twice-to-beat leverage over the seventh- and eighth-ranked qualifiers while teams in the middle figure in a best-of-three series.

Both GlobalPort and Columbian are hoping to make it to the quarters as they tangle in the 4:30 p.m. curtain-raiser at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday.

Columbian got blown away by the Barangay Ginebra Kings on Wednesday and fell to 4-6 in the standings in a tie with the Phoenix Fuel Masters.

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They need to end the elimination round with a win over the Batang Pier, who got clobbered by the Fuel Masters two days ago, 135-108, to keep their hunt for a quarterfinal spot alive.

“I will make sure that our guys will give everything we have to get that pivotal fifth win,” said Columbian coach Ricky Dandan.

Bidding to survive this one, the Batang Pier (4-5) have to close out their elimination campaign also with a victory against the Gin Kings.

GlobalPort will have to deal with a major change in its roster after sending bruiser Kelly Nabong to San Miguel Beer in exchange for veteran Gabby Espinas and a 2020 second-round pick.

The 6-foot-5 Nabong, who loves to mix toughness with swagger in the lane, joins a vaunted Beermen frontline that already currently includes four-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, rookie sensation Christian Standhardinger and import Renaldo Balkman.

“He’s a good addition to the team. Kelly has definitely added more depth to our frontline,” said coach Leo Austria, whose Beermen are situated in the middle of the chart (4-4) in their quest for a quarterfinal seat.

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TAGS: Arinze Onuaku, Basketball, PBA Commissioner’s Cup
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