Meralco enters key stretch on positive note, tied for lead
Meralco will approach the meat of a truly tough windup to its elimination round schedule in the PBA Governors’ Cup carrying the momentum of a 107-95 win over Terrafirma on Thursday where the Bolts were able to fire away practically at will and loosen their guns at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
After winning a second straight game to rise to 6-1 and tie for the lead after Magnolia fell for the first time later, the Bolts will be entering the final two weeks of classification needing to still pile up wins to remain in the upper half of the playoff draw for a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
“The elimination round is coming to an end pretty soon and everybody’s fighting for positions and we want to stay at the top four,” said Meralco coach Norman Black in reiterating the importance of getting the first round shield.
“We didn’t want to fall to Terrafirma, and we wanted to come out, run as much as possible, and play good defense,” Black went on. “We had a lot of fastbreak points tonight and when you get easy points, it helps your offense a lot.”
The Hotshots were dealt a stinging 103-101 loss by undermanned NorthPort in the nightcap after Jamel Artis scored 42 points in a no-relief job that had the Batang Pier fanning their playoff hopes after improving to 2-5.
The Bolts will next play Alaska on Saturday before facing solid Magnolia and San Miguel Beer in a four-day span starting Wednesday next week, and going at least 2-1 there would more or less guarantee a spot in the top four. Their last match will be against Phoenix on March 11.
Alaska, despite losing to NLEX last Wednesday, will still be a tough nut to crack, with the Aces on their farewell tour.
The Hotshots, meanwhile, will be back on the court on Sunday against San Miguel Beer. San Miguel is on the bubble and would need to sweep its last three games for a solid shot at a twice-to-beat privilege.
Tony Bishop Jr. finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and two steals in leading Meralco yet again, while Allein Maliksi added 18 points and six assists.
Cliff Hodge and Bong Quinto also finished in twin digits for the Bolts with 16 and 11 points, respectively.
Antonio Hester led Terrafirma with 23 points and 17 rebounds as the Dyip fell to 2-6 and potentially out of the playoff picture with three games left.
Meanwhile, NLEX got big man Justin Chua from Phoenix in a trade approved by the league on Thursday, with the Road Warriors giving up Kris Porter and two future draft selections.
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