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(Smart Araneta )
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Alaska (Game 5)
* – Best-of-5 series is tied, 2-2
Cyrus Baguio: 1-of-11 shooting in 20:23 minutes in Game 4. Calvin Abueva: 2-of-11 in 27:46. Chris Banchero: 2 of 8 in 21:08. RJ Jasul 3 of 9 in 30:59. Alaska Aces: 25 of 75 from the floor (33 percent).
Somebody out there must have badly wanted the other half of the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal bracket to go to a deciding Game 5.
Who? Think Meralco Bolts and their defensive intensity Monday, their 49 percent field goal conversion (34 of 69) and 50-39 rebounding edge.
“This game is basically just about trying to live another day,” said Bolts coach Norman Black. “We really got back to basics as far as our defense is concerned.”
No better time to return to fundamentals.
With shifting winds blowing through the best-of-5 series which comes to a screeching halt at 7 tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the Bolts got to savor some cool breeze after getting burned in Game 3.
Two days after the Aces dismantled the Bolts, 92-72, holding Black’s team to its lowest output in the conference, Meralco struck back with an electrifying performance in Game 4, limiting Alex Compton’s ballclub to its worst output in the last four conferences, 86-70, in extending the series to a deciding fifth game today.
Routs in Games 3 and 4 followed tight-wire action in the first two, with Alaska clawing past Meralco in the opener, 97-94, and the Bolts kicking their way to a 92-87 equalizer in Game 2.
Now comes the do-or-die for both clubs.
This marks the first Game 5 in a best-of-5 affair since San Mig Coffee-Rain or Shine in the shortened 2014 Governors’ Cup finals, a stretch covering five conferences. The Aces also get a shot at redemption after blowing a 2-1 lead over the RoS Elasto Painters in the Gov. Cup semis two years ago.
A crack at revenge awaits Alaska if it gets past Meralco, with Rain or Shine already in the best-of-7 championship after finishing off Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer, 3-1, a few days ago in the other semis matchup.
Catching a well-organized team like Alaska on an off-night is something Meralco could thank its stars for, although the Bolts did receive a big lift from starters Jared Dillinger and Bryan Faundo, and subs Andrew Caram and Chris Newsome, who was scoreless in Game 3.
Dillinger led the Bolts with 17 points after a 9-point output in the previous game, while Faundo added 12 after just two points earlier. Caram and Newsome, for their part, combined for 15 points coming off the bench.
Arinze Onuaku (16, 16 rebounds) also asserted his bulk for Meralco at the expense of Alaska’s Rob Dozier, attacking the basket at will and assisting quickly off the double team.
But the Aces rarely suffer back-to-back losses when it matters most, and to expect Baguio and Abueva to come out cold again in Game 5 would be a huge mistake, especially after Compton had issued a biting-cold warning to his players that another crushing defeat looms for them if they fail to live up to expectations.
“If they (Bolts) play this way and we play this way, they’re going to the Finals,” Compton told the PBA website. “We talked about what we didn’t want to happen happened. Now it’s down to a do-or-die. Give them credit. They’re all over the place. This team reminds me of us when we’re playing our best. They deserved it, they played really well.”
Short of guaranteeing a win, Abueva vowed a different outcome today.
“Makakabawi tayo,” he said. “Do-or-die. Para mag-finals, talagang ibibigay na namin lahat.”
“Now that we’re here, we’ll try to win Game 5,” he said. “At this point in the season, why worry about what happened before?”