Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Star vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – Tropang TNT vs Alaska
The Meralco Bolts gave Phoenix two chances to end their streak, but the Fuel Masters gave both back.
Two missed free throws by Anjo Caram with 11.6 seconds left and a third by rookie Chris Newsome in the last 4.2 left the door open, but Phoenix couldn’t convert and Meralco dodged the bullet, 90-87, for its fourth straight win in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Anjo is actually a pretty good free throw shooter,” said Bolts coach Norman Black. “I guess the situation just got the best of him.”
After Caram clanged his foul shots to leave Phoenix within, 89-87, Rodney Brondial came down with the rebound and the Fuel Masters drew a play that had RR Garcia driving from a high pick ‘n roll and dishing off to cutting import Kenny Adeleke.
The pass was a little high, however, and Adeleke traveled, giving possession back to Meralco. Phoenix trapped the receiver after the inbounds pass but instead sent Newsome to the line. He split his charities and the Fuel Masters had a final shot which Josh Urbiztondo took and was swatted by Bolts reinforcement Arinze Onuaku.
At 4-0, Meralco is one away from matching a franchise best start in last season’s Commissioner’s Cup, a streak that took them all the way to the best-of-5 semifinals where they were upended by Rain or Shine after their import Josh Davis got injured. The Bolts face Globalport on Feb. 28.
“It feels good to win a game where we couldn’t shoot straight,” said Black. “Fortunately our defense held up. Also, Arinze took care of a lot of our weaknesses.”
The wide-bodied Onuaku led Meralco with 17 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots, mostly on driving layups by Garcia, who waxed hot in the first quarter for Phoenix but was 1 of 14 from the floor the rest of the way.
After converting 17 triples in a shocking debut win over the NLEX Road Warriors a few days ago, Phoenix shot 8 of 38 from beyond the arc, with Mac Baracael going 1 of 8, JC Intal, who had 17 points against NLEX, 0 of 5, Urbiztondo 1 of 9, and Garcia 3 of 11.
A Jared Dillinger 3-pointer with 45 seconds left shattered an 86-all count, the go-ahead basket made possible after Onuaku harpooned an earlier 3-point miss by Dillinger and kicked it back out to the Bolts hotshot for his third 3 in the evening.
“They used a zone against us practically the whole game and forced us to go to our perimeter game. But eventually we figured it out by getting their import involved in high pick ‘n rolls,” said Black of the key adjustment they made to open up the shaded lane.
Meanwhile, Othyus Jeffers battled severe back spasms that needed periodic stretching in scoring 38 points and grabbing 20 rebounds as Barangay Ginebra San Miguel turned back Rain or Shine, 103-92, for its first win in three games.
The RoS Elasto Painters, 1-2, replaced the injured Wayne Chism with former NBA player Antoine Wright, who couldn’t shake off, however, the effects of jet lag after flying in at 3 in the morning, debuting with 16 points on 4 of 16 shooting.
MERALCO 90 – Onuaku 17, Newsome 16, David 13, Dillinger 10, Amer 8, Hodge 8, Bono 4, Hugnatan 4, Nabong 4, Al-Hussaini 2, Caram 2, Faundo 2.
PHOENIX 87 – Garcia 15, Adeleke 13, Baracael 13, Brondial 12, Wilson 10, Urbiztondo 9, Lanete 8, Monfort 5, Intal 2, Pennisi 0.
Quarters: 19-23; 40-47; 67-67; 90-87
GINEBRA 103 – Jeffers 38, Slaughter 16, Devance 13, Aguilar 10, Ellis 7, Thompson 5, Caguioa 4, Mercado 4, Tenorio 3, Marcelo 2, Cruz 1,
RAIN OR SHINE 92 – Quinahan 21, Wright 16, Chan 13, Cruz 10, Ahanmisi 8, Belga 8, Ibanes 3, Almazan 2, Ponferrada 2, Tiu 1, Trollano 0.
Quarters: 28-23; 53-44; 82-70; 103-92.