Meralco’s streak of playoff runs in the Philippine Basketball Association is still alive.
The Bolts stretched their winning streak to three straight and they caught a big fish in TNT Tropang Giga, 97-91, in the Commissioner’s Cup Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Meralco put on the clamps on dead shot Roger Pogoy, then exerted more effort getting second chance points while going more aggressive attacking inside the shaded lane to seal the victory.
The Bolts got 22 second chance points, 16 more than their rivals, then produced 52 points inside the shaded lane, 32 points more than the Tropang Giga.
By outplaying and outhustling the Tropang Giga, the Bolts improved their win-loss record to 4-5, which put them back in the running for the playoffs — the same record now being carried by their latest victims.
But Meralco will move up to seventh place by virtue of the win over the other rule.
The Bolts had made it at least in the semifinal round the last five conferences, including two finals entries.
But in this import-laced tourney, the team experienced a turbulent ride, losing five of its first six games with import Johnny O’Bryant, a veteran from the National Basketball Association, who just couldn’t live up to expectations.
O’Bryant was replaced by Jessie Govan, who exceeded the 6-foot-10 height limit, forcing the Bolts to call on K.J. McDaniels, a returning PBA import who turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
McDaniels led Meralco, his third PBA team, to three straight victories, a development that completely change the fortune of the squad.
The returning reinforcement is being eyed for the season-ending Governors’ Cup but turned out to be a logical choice even when playing against imports bigger than him.
Against an old G League rival in Cameron Oliver, McDaniels pumped in 26 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and a block, but more importantly, the energy he brought to his squad was infectious.
“Since K.J. got here, our practice has become intense, everybody goes hard in practice and it always shows on the basketball court,” Meralco coach Norman Black said.
“I always like when guys practice well because normally, it translates to the games. That’s what has been happening to us lately.”
Defensively, Meralco was able to get the job done as well.
Pogoy, the designated gunner of the Tropang Giga, was held down to just four points while Mikey Williams, back in action after being suspended by the team for disciplinary measures, blew hot and cold.
The scoring champion last season, Williams started with 15 first half points, but went scoreless in the third before scoring five in the fourth.
MERALCO 97 – McDaniels 26, Almazan 21, Black 17, Quinto 13, Banchero 10, Mlaiksi 9, Pascual 1, Jose 0, Pasaol 0, Caram 0, Hodge 0
TNT 91 – Oliver 25, M. Williams 20, Castro 19, Erram 10, Oftana 6, K. Williams 5, Pogoy 4, Khobuntin 2, Heruela 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0
QUARTERS: 21-23, 49-54, 73-74, 97-91
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