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Plotting responses

Bamboozled in their Game 4s, Meralco and TNT seek to solve Magnolia and SMB puzzles that would keep the Bolts alive and give the Tropang Giga back command
/ 04:10 AM October 12, 2021

Mac Belo (with ball) and the rest of the Bolts would need to get off more shots like this in the face of Magnolia’s unrelenting defense. —PBA IMAGES

Meralco was a picture of helplessness against Magnolia’s dreaded pressure defense on Sunday night, and coach Norman Black believes that for the Bolts to prolong their PBA Philippine Cup lives, that’s exactly the thing they have to address this week.

“We need to be able to handle the ball pressure of their point guards,” Black told the Inquirer on Monday, still licking the wounds of an 81-69 defeat that put them in a 3-1 hole in their side of the Final Four.

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It was because of that stifling Magnolia defense that Meralco found itself playing catch-up throughout Game 4.

“We weren’t able to run our offense smoothly,” said Black.

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Despite needing to play KO matches, most likely starting on Wednesday if all four teams still in the hunt for the title clear all health checks, Meralco can draw hope on the possibility that its prized center Raymond Almazan, who hurt his ankle in Game 3, could join the next match.

“Raymond is a game-time decision,” said Black.

Meanwhile, TNT is in a slightly better situation despite a 115-98 loss also on Sunday that took away the Tropang Giga’s chance at seizing control against San Miguel Beer, while taking a huge psychological hit going into the crucial fifth game of their series with the mighty Beermen.

The Tropang Giga’s top guns were saddled with fouls and horrendous shooting at a time when all of the Beermen’s stars were having a field day, as San Miguel knotted their match-up at 2-2 and will have all sorts of momentum moving forward to the next game.

Chot Reyes and his charges remain an anxious bunch as they await the results on examinations on Poy Erram, who hit the floor after a collision with the Beermen’s wide-bodied forward Mo Tautuaa.

“Poy has a suspected fractured cheekbone, and more tests are to be done today,” the decorated mentor said also on Monday.

Erram had been a steady presence for TNT against the Beermen, starring in the last two games which the Tropang Giga split.

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And having one less weapon against a stacked team on a reclamation mission isn’t exactly the most ideal of scenarios.

“Obviously, we’re at a huge disadvantage. [So] we need to dig deep to find a way to win,” Reyes said of the tiebreaker also slated this Wednesday.

San Miguel is doggedly determined to get back in the Finals and have a shot at reclaiming lost glory after its streak of five straight PH Cup titles was snapped last season in the bubble when June Mar Fajardo couldn’t play.

Meralco wants to just stay alive and make it to a first PH Cup title series, while the Tropang Giga are aching to announce their coming by bringing down the consensus team-to-beat.

Magnolia, meanwhile, came within seconds of becoming the team to finally unseat the Beermen in the Finals two years ago and has armed itself to the teeth in order to get that chance again.

Some of those scenarios will be eliminated by the end of this week, where only the toughest will survive. INQ

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TAGS: Basketball, PBA Philippine Cup, Sports
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