Aware of two-game hole peril, Bolts rip Gin Kings; Fuel Masters stand up to their ‘dragon’
There’s a math in a best-of-five series that’s vastly different from a best-of-seven affair.
Meralco coach Norman Black made sure his players understood the urgency behind that difference.
“We just talked about the fact that if we go down 0-2, we will have no chance to come back in the series,” Black said shortly after his wards carved out a 95-77 victory over Barangay Ginebra in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal showdown on Friday.
The Bolts tied the series at one game apiece and turned their half of the semifinal bracket into a best-of-three affair.
And they did so by working out the math: Down 13 at one point, the Bolts went plus-31 the rest of the way to put themselves on equal footing with the Kings in the battle for one of two championship berths.
Phoenix pretty much figured out the same thing, surviving a roller-coaster game to turn back TNT, 110-103, in the second game to also knot their semifinal matchup.
“[TNT] has been the dragon in front of us and for us to reach the Finals … one way or the other, we have to face that dragon,” Phoenix coach Topex Robinson said. “There’s no guarantee of winning, but as long as we know in our heart of hearts that we gave our best, that’s it.”
Jason Perkins had 21 points and four rebounds as Phoenix fought off its dragon, but it was Calvin Abueva who really shone with his 20 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two steals as the Fuel Masters survived another limited night for top gun Matthew Wright.
Wright, who played just half a quarter in Game 1 due to a sprained ankle, showed up for a little over 15 minutes in Game 2, finishing with just two points.
“Without Matt, all of us added to step up,” said Abueva of the Fuel Masters, who also got 18 points and eight rebounds from Justin Chua.
Ray Parks Jr. had a big night with 41 points but fouled out at the height of TNT’s rally in the fourth quarter to doom his squad. The Tropang Giga fell behind by 18, led by two going into the final five minutes but fell behind again by 10 with under a minute remaining as it failed to generate enough offense in Parks’ absence.
Chris Newsome unloaded 14 of his 16 points in the second half, completing a three-point play that capped Meralco’s 15-0 run for an 85-67 lead going into the final five minutes.
Newsome also buried the jumper that stretched that lead to 91-70, in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the match.
Allein Maliksi finished with 14, Cliff Hodge added 12 points and 11 boards, Raymond Almazan had 11 and 11 while Baser Amer accounted for 10 in the contest.
Almazan also anchored a stingy Meralco defense that suffocated the Kings in the second half. Barangay Ginebra shot just 36 percent from the field in Game 2, making just 27 of 75 attempts from the field. The Kings also hit 9-of-31 three-pointers for a scant 29-percent clip.
“[Raymond and Allein], as what I’ve been saying all along, are big additions to our team … We need Allein to score for us to be successful. We need Raymond’s presence in the middle for us to be successful,” Black said.
Almazan also helped the Bolts enjoy a 53-44 edge off the boards.
Both teams had low-error nights with Ginebra committing 11 turnovers and Meralco coughing up seven. But the Bolts capitalized on those errors of the Kings for a 21-3 edge in turnover points.
“They did their jobs tonight but of course the job is not done yet. We need to win two more games,” he added.
For Ginebra coach Tim Cone, however, his wards’ poor shooting in the final two periods was only part of the problem.
“We lived off of our shooting in the first half and our shooting dried up in the second half. Then we couldn’t respond by making stops,” Cone said.
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