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PBA: Meralco fights for life vs Aces

Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Alaska vs Meralco

Game 4 best-of-five semifinals (Alaska leads series 2-1)

The last thing Alaska coach Alex Compton would want to see is for his Aces to be overconfident as they try to closeout their semifinal series against the Meralco Bolts in Game 4 today in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Alaska delivered a dominant performance in Game 3 last Friday as it scored a convincing 92-72 win that gave the Aces a 2-1 advantage in their best-of-five series against the Bolts.

Alaska will enter the 7 p.m. game heavily favored versus Meralco.

In the previous game, the Aces limited the Bolts to 35 percent (28-of-79) shooting from the field, and limited their opponent to 21 turnovers, which was translated to 26 points by Alaska.

Compton’s team also controlled the boards, 56-46, including 21 offensive boards leading to 31 points on second chance opportunities. They also had 38 points from inside the shaded area.

Two players of Alaska had a double-double effort as import Rob Dozier had 25 points and 14 rebounds while 6-foot-1 forward Calvin Abueva added 23 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.

“Hindi kami puwedeng mag relax sa Game Four,” said Abueva on their bid to closeout Meralco. “Two days rest yan, makaka-recover ang mga yun (Bolts) kaya pagpupursigihin pa namin.”

Alaska has done well despite the absence of key players in point guard JVee Casio and forward Vic Manuel.

Casio is still recovering from the bruised right knee he sustained midway in the elimination round, while Manuel is still having his rehabilitation after he had a PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) on his strained right calf he injured during the quarterfinals against Tropang TNT.

Without the two, Alaska is in a position to shoot for a third straight finals stint and fourth in the last five conferences.

Aside from Abueva and Dozier, other players expected to step up for Compton include Sonny Thoss, Cyrus Baguio, Dondon Hontiveros, Tony dela Cruz, RJ Jazul, Chris Banchero and Ping Exciminiano.

As for Meralco, coach Norman Black hopes for a better performance from his players, whom he criticized with the effort they gave in Game 3. A win by the Bolts will force a deciding game on Wednesday.

“We didn’t get back on defense, turned the ball too much,” said Black of his team’s effort. “If you’re going to play basketball like that this late in the season, you don’t deserve to win.”

Meralco will rely anew on import Arinze Onuaku, who averages nearly 17 points and 16 rebounds in the semifinals, Jimmy Alapag, Jared Dillinger, Cliff Hodge, Anjo Zaram and Reynel Hugnatan, as well as rookie forward Chris Newsome and guard Baser Amer.