Meralco wins back-to-back for the first time and is making an assault on PH Cup leaders in PBA bubble
A balanced attack sure was instrumental in Meralco’s 101-92 triumph over sister team NLEX in the PBA Philippine Cup on Friday night.
But coach Norman Black was more impressed with how his wards played defense.
“We want to really play as a team, to share the basketball,” Black said shortly after his Bolts got a winning streak going and improved to 3-2 inside the bubble at Angeles University Foundation powered by Smart 5G.
“But I was more impressed with our defense. Our defense really stood out.”
Meralco held NLEX to just 28 points in the paint, forcing the Road Warriors to settle for outside shots. The Meralco defense held the enemy to just 40 percent shooting from the field.
The Bolts paired that stingy effort on defense with an equally sterling performance from Chris Newsome, who had 18 points, and Allein Maliksi who added 17 more off the bench.
Raymond Almazan, who recorded his longest playing time since rejoining the team coming off rehab, added 11 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes while imposing his presence in the middle—especially in the third frame where the Bolts gained control.
There were a total of six players who scored in twin digits for Meralco, which obviously put a smile on the face of Black.
“We want to be one of those teams that play with a lot of teamwork,” he said after Baser Amer started at the point to shoot 11 and Cliff Hodge finished with 10 that went with eight rebounds and a lot of hustle on the defensive end against the bruising NLEX front line.
Kiefer Ravena was big offensively for the Road Warriors yet again with 30 points, but NLEX lost for the fourth time in five games because it didn’t have the well-balanced scoring effort that Meralco dished out with only David Semerad and Kevin Alas turning in twin digits with a combined 26—still short of what Ravena tallied.
“For us, it’s not about who’s scoring the most but everybody doing their share and doing their part,” Newsome said even as he shared his coach’s view that defense won it for them.
Newsome not only played his part well offensively, he also held the team together as its leader by being the coach on the floor for the Bolts.
“I was saying that this is a great opportunity for us to improve on the team standings and a great opportunity for the franchise to [win] two straight,” Newsome added.
For Black, it was a performance the team will be needing as they shift their attention to the top half of the draw.
“We’ve three wins, and I’m figuring you have to get to seven wins to get one of those top four spots [for the playoffs]. So we’re gonna have to win a lot of games coming up in the future and San Miguel is next,” he told reporters here.
“Even without June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo, they still have a lot of talent,” he added. “We’ll be ready for San Miguel, we’ll prepare for them.”
Fajardo didn’t make the trip to the bubble because of a leg injury suffered in the off-season, while Romeo exited this confined space last week after dislocating his right shoulder after colliding with Ryan Reyes in a loss to league-leading TNT Tropang Giga.
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