Meralco struggling to fortify PBA playoff bid
Meralco has to fight “tooth and nail” to put itself in a good position to make a deep playoff run in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup.
If it’s any consolation, coach Norman Black and the Bolts aren’t alone in that predicament.
“Almost all of the teams are struggling to make the playoffs,” Black said after a 114-98 win over the NLEX Road Warriors that arrested a two-game slide on Thursday at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
“There’s actually two teams (TNT and San Miguel Beer) that are pulling away, while everybody else is kinda tooth and nail trying to stay in the running. We’re one of those teams,” added Black as the Bolts improved to 4-3 (win-loss).
Meralco, whose last two defeats came against the runaway leaders who have secured their quarterfinal slots, restored its sixth-place tie with Magnolia in the standings and is just a game behind third-placer Converge, which was playing at press time.
Also bunched closely together are NLEX, which dropped to fourth at 5-3, and fourth-running Barangay Ginebra at 4-2.
Meralco will have chances to bolster its bid while hauling down other teams caught in a tight playoff chase.
The Bolts will battle Magnolia on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum, Ginebra on March 1 and Converge on March 3 before meeting Phoenix to conclude the elimination round on March 5.
To achieve that goal, however, Black is banking on import KJ McDaniels to put up big numbers like he did early in the conference, and Thursday against NLEX, his former team.
McDaniels had 31 points and 21 rebounds against the Road Warriors, who he reinforced in the early portion of last season’s Governors’ Cup. He averaged 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds against the Beermen and Tropang Giga.
“We got a big game from KJ which we didn’t get in the last two games,” Black said. “If he can give us that type of performance, then we have a chance of beating anybody.”
But the locals are also expected to share that burden, especially Allein Maliksi, who got 19 points including key shots from three-point land that prevented the Road Warriors from drawing closer after repeated attempts to cut into a 21-point deficit.
Chris Newsome, Aaron Black, Cliff Hodge and Anjo Caram were also instrumental in the win that was highlighted by a 22-0 run that turned a 16-15 deficit with less than five minutes to go in the first into a 37-16 lead early in the second.
NLEX absorbed a third defeat in four games since original import Jonathon Simmons left for China and was replaced by Wayne Selden, who despite the team’s slump remains to be one of the tournament’s talented imports.