November 25, 2017, 4:16 am
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1 Philippine Peso = 1 Philippine Peso
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.01482 St Helena Pound
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Bolts far from finished: Black

MERALCO’s back is against the wall, down 0-2 against Ginebra in their PBA Governors Cup championship series.

But coach Tim Cone and the Kings are still wary, knowing the Bolts have what it takes to bounce back in the best-of-seven duel.

“We beat them two in a row; they can certainly come back and beat us two in a row and tie this thing up,” Cone said after Ginebra posted an 86-76 win last Sunday that came on the heels of a 102-87 triumph in the opener two days earlier.

“You just can’t get too happy or pleased with yourself because there’s just so much work left to do,” added Cone. “It’s always nice to get the lead in a series, always nice to do that. But it doesn’t guarantee you anything.”

Kings import Justin Brownlee and LA Tenorio refused to countermand their coach’s view.

“We know what type of team Meralco is,” Brownlee said. “We know they’re gonna keep fighting. They’re not gonna give up, kind of like Ginebra’s never-say-die. We know it’s not over yet, we know it’s gonna be a long series and we just need to come out and try to fight in every game, be aggressive and hopefully continue winning games.”

“They will be super aggressive and they’re gonna play do-or-die next game,” said Tenorio. “Alam naman natin kapag do-or-die game lahat ng players really focused and intense. They’re gonna come out really physical and they’re gonna find ways to win.” 

Meralco coach Norman Black said there’s still enough fight left in his team going into Game 3 tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and turn the series around from there.

“Unless they win four games my guys will be out there fighting,” said Black. “I thought my guys fought better tonight than they did in the first game. It’s just a matter of kicking it up at least a notch.” 

In the league’s 42-year history, 30 of 36 teams that took a 2-0 lead in the finals went on to the win the title. 

In the same vein, only one team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win it all, the “Beer-acle” that San Miguel Beer pulled off in last year’s Philippine Cup finals. 

That is another fact Black draws his positivity from. “We saw San Miguel Beer do it recently over Alaska so it is possible,” he pointed out.

Meralco doesn’t want to fall into such a deep hole but first needs to fine-tune some facets of its game, particularly its outside shots.

After going 8-for-34 from beyond the arc in the opener, the Bolts went 5-for-23 from three-point land in Game 2.

Usual top snipers Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger and Ranidel de Ocampo have combined for 8-for-27 in both games, giving Ginebra’s defenders the confidence to sag more on Allen Durham down low.

“That’s really the problem right now,” admitted Black. “We’re not giving that spacing that we need around Allen to be able to have him be successful. We’ve had that the entire conference but in this series so far we haven’t been able to knock down our outside shots.”

Durham played like the back-to-back Best Import awardee that he is last Sunday, tallying 25 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists, but only Amer and De Ocampo were able to give him the much-needed support with 10 points each.

Even Durham faded in the stretch of Game 2 when the Kings, behind Tenorio and Brownlee, unloaded a 19-1 assault that blew the Bolts away.

That surge was eerily similar to the 19-4 surge Ginebra used to start the fourth quarter of Game 1 to erect a 96-75 bulge and turn the erstwhile close match into a cruise.

How to prevent such meltdowns should also be crowding Meralco’s collective minds. 

“One game at a time,” was how Dillinger expressed it for his team. “Right now we’re focusing on one. But we have to stay together. You got to stick with it and keep grinding it out.”
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