Bolts hold Gin Kings to unbelievable 26 second half points as defensive Game 3 masterpiece gives Meralco back Govs’ Cup championship series lead
Meralco bottled up the enemy in a merciless way on Sunday night and the Bolts pulled out the inconceivable against Barangay Ginebra to swing back the PBA Governors’ Cup title series tide in their favor.
Down by eight points at the half, the Meralco defense held the Gin Kings to a miserable 26-point output in the final two periods to carve out an 83-74 victory and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Finals that stunned hugely pro-Ginebra fans that made up the crowd of more than 16,000 at Mall of Asia Arena.
And then the Bolts went on to fire on practically all cylinders in the final two frames with import Tony Bishop Jr. and Chris Newsome leading the way as Meralco not only pulled a nose out ahead in the race-to-four affair but will also take a positive vibe heading into the critical fourth game on Wednesday when the series returns to the cavernous Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.
“I sound like a broken record sometimes, but both teams played really good defense tonight. You can tell that by the score,” Meralco coach Norman Black said. “It was very difficult to score out there, so it’s just a matter of just getting some stops and trying to hold on as long as we could.”
Bishop, who trails Ginebra counterpart Justin Brownlee in the Best Import race, finished with 30 points and 16 rebounds and Newsome collected 20 and 11 that went with six assists to complete a deadly 1-2 attack that the Kings never had an answer to in the last two quarters.
“We did have some good offensive performances, though,” Black also said.
The defense, though, still proved to be the biggest story of the contest as Cliff Hodge anchored a no-nonsense stand that was highlighted in two sequences in the dying minutes when he smothered a Christian Standhardinger short stab and then drew an offensive foul from the Ginebra center in the next play that took the air out of the Kings’ collective sails.
Brownlee went on to lead the Kings with 19 points but was forced mainly by Hodge to a miserable 1-for-10 clip from three-point range as Ginebra, which converted on 13 shots from afar in a 99-93 Game 2 win, made just 4-of-32 to underscore how it struggled.
Allein Maliksi, who was scoreless in Game 2, hit seven of his 10 points in the fourth period for the Bolts, who are seeking to win a title series for the first time in four clashes with the Kings for the franchise’s first PBA crown.
Black needed no one to remind him that this lead is reminiscent of the two club’s first meeting back in 2016. That time, the Kings went on to win the next three games on the way to the title.
“I just live in the present—which is we’re up 2-1, and we’ll be back this Wednesday. We have a couple of days to get our legs fresh, and so do they (Gin Kings),” he said. INQ
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