Allen, KJ seek title crack
Allen Durham tries to get another shot at title tormentor Barangay Ginebra San Miguel when he leads the Meralco Bolts on Monday in a playoff against the TNT KaTropa for the last championship slot of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The winner of the Game 5 semifinal decider seals a best-of-seven title showdown starting Jan. 8 with the Gin Kings, who had earlier blown away the NorthPort Batang Pier in four games after a listless start.
TNT also had a chance to end its semifinal duel with sister team Meralco in Game 4, but Durham just didn’t want to miss the chance of getting back at the Gin Kings, who had dealt him and the Bolts back-to-back losses in their title playoffs in 2016 and 2017.
The successive setbacks hurt all the more for Durham since he was honored as best import of both tournaments.
With a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, the KaTropa looked ready to clinch the series with an early 17-4 start in Game 4 Saturday before the Bolts battled back to move ahead at halftime, 51-45, and maintain the lead for good behind Durham and Baser Amer.
When TNT threatened at 71-73 early in the last period, Durham and Amer combined for 13 points in a 14-4 Meralco blast that boosted the Bolts out front at 87-75. Durham finished with a game-high 36 points, nine of them in the final period while Amer unloaded 10 of his 12 points in the last quarter.
“A lot of people didn’t want to lose tonight led by Allen Durham. He was very productive for us,” said Meralco coach Norman Black on Saturday.
Now that it’s a question of who wants to win more, the spotlight will be on Durham’s counterpart KJ McDaniels as well with the TNT import showing less of his fiery form in the last two games of the series after unloading 51 in a losing effort in Game 2.
He made only two points in the first half of Game 3 where he wound up with a season-low 18 points, although it was his offensive rebounding that lifted the KaTropa to a 101-97 win.
In Game 4, McDaniels ended up with 26, but he was not a factor in the last quarter with only seven points.
But whether it’s Durham or McDaniels the Kings will face in the finals is not a problem for coach Tim Cone.
Keeping Ginebra in fighting shape for the title series after the holiday break worries Cone more, although with the way the Kings had clobbered the Batang Pier, the wise money bet is a foregone conclusion. INQ