McDaniels dominates, lifts Meralco past RoS

Meralco import KJ McDaniels slams it home against Rain or Shine’s Gabe Norwood during their PBA Governor’s Cup encounter at the PhilSports Arena on Sunday. (PBA Images)

With returning import K.J. McDaniels back for another tour of duty, Meralco came out ready to relaunch its bid for a possible playoff run.

The Bolts announced their readiness as they registered a dominant 105-87 triumph over Rain or Shine at the start of the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup Sunday night at the Philsports Arena.

McDaniels displayed his tip-top condition, finishing with 27 points, a career-high 23 rebounds, and three assists in a solid all-around performance for the Bolts, who uncorked a huge third-quarter rally, 27-14, to rip the game wide open.

The National Basketball Association veteran wasn’t only bigger, but also stronger and more athletic to lead the Bolts’ dominance in rebounding and inside points.

Meralco grabbed 63 rebounds — 20 more than Rain or Shine. That also manifested in more second-chance points for the Bolts, who got 24 as against only six for their rivals.

The Bolts also had 54 points inside the paint compared to only 18 for the Elasto Painters.

Playing in his fourth tournament in the PBA, McDaniels is looking forward in getting the job done.

He first played for TNT and nearly led the squad to the championship round, but lost ironically, against Meralco, in the best-of-five semifinals series in the same tournament four years ago.

Two years ago, McDaniels returned, this time playing for NLEX, then being coached by Yeng Guiao, but had to leave after leading the Road Warriors in securing a twice-to-beat in the playoffs to attend to family matters.

The Bolts recalled him as a replacement import to take over the spot of ineffective Johnny O’Bryant in the Commissioner’s Cup, but their 1-5 win-loss record was just too deep of a hump to overcome.

In his latest tour of duty, McDaniels came out in his best condition in years and is so pumped up to start the tournament on a winning note.

“It’s a big confidence-booster,” said McDaniels, whose previous career-high in rebounds was 22 that he registered during TNT’s 135-107 win over Blackwater in the 2019 Governors’ Cup eliminations.

“I had an opportunity to practice with the team longer and we have a chance to prepare together longer for this conference.”

McDaniels took care of business inside the shaded lane, but the Bolts, who are also starting their campaign healthier than the previous conference, also provided solid support.

Chris Banchero, who missed several games due to injury, and Chris Newsome, sidelined by a contusion on his calf the whole Commissioner’s Cup, were back in harness to provide the firepower, while Allein Maliksi opened things up for McDaniels with his steady shooting even as Bong Quinto was overpowering the smaller defenders as the Bolts were simply too much against a banged-up Rain or Shine squad that played without top post defender Leonard Santillan and best perimeter stopper in Gian Mamuyac in the second half after twisting his ankle.

Banchero, who joined the Bolts last year, fired 17 points, five rebounds and five assists while Maliksi dropped 16 markers in 32 minutes of action.

Quito and Newsome combined for 21 points to help McDaniels carry the scoring cudgels for the Meralco squad that aims to book a return flight to the finals of the Governors’ Cup.

“I thought it was basically defensive stops and getting the rebounds which was very, very important,” Meralco coach Norman Black said.

“We didn’t score much in the fourth quarter but we were getting stops so it really helped us.”

The league also welcomed the return of two-time Most Valuable Player James Yap for Rain or Shine, which banked on Rey Nambatac’s 21 points.

Coming off the bench, Yap produced 12 points in the second period and provided the spark for the Elasto Painters as he capped the first half with a huge three-pointer off a timeout for a 54-54 deadlock.

The Scores:

MERALCO (105) – McDaniels 27, Banchero 17, Maliksi 16, Quinto 11, Newsome 10, Hodge 8, Almazan 6, Pasaol 5, Johnson 3, Jose 2, Rios 0, Pascual 0

RAIN OR SHINE (87) – Nambatac 21, Qualls 14, Yap 14, Mamuyac 10, Asistio 10, Norwood 5, Nieto 3, Ponferrada 2, Clarito 2, Torres 2, Demusis 2, Belga 2, Caracut 0, Borboran 0

QUARTERS: 22-24, 54-54, 81-68, 105-87

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