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PBA: TNT, BOLTS IN GAME 3

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Dillinger suffers hamstring pull.

Meralco forward Jared Dillinger’s status is unclear but he has already mentioned his availability when the Bolts clash with TNT Katropa in Game 3 of their semifinal series in the PBA Governors’ Cup tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Dillinger, a key component in Meralco’s drive to make its first finals stint, suffered a pulled hamstring late in Game 2 but went to Twitter to declare that he will suit up for the pivotal match.

“I’m playing Sat no matter what. Let’s go,” said Dillinger through his personal account ‪@JDHawaii20.

The game is scheduled at 5 p.m.

The series is now tied at 1-1 after the Bolts escaped with a 106-91 victory. Top seeded TNT edged No. 4 Meralco in the series-opener, 113-95, last Tuesday at the Big Dome.

The 6-foot-3 Dillinger sustained the injury at the 1:06 mark of the fourth period – with the win already in the bag for Meralco. After he stole a pass from TNT’s Troy Rosario, he went straight to the basket.

A few steps away for an uncontested layup, Dillinger slipped a bit. After he converted a shot, he held on to his right hamstring.

From where he was, coach Norman Black, with the way Dillinger reacted, already expected the worst.

“A big loss if he’s out of the series,” said Black, who relies on Dillinger’s scoring prowess and ball-handling in crucial situations – a role he has been accustomed to in his career.

Meralco import Allen Durham, who scored 31 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, is expected to lead the Bolts anew with backing from rookie guard Chris Newsome, guards Jimmy Alapag and Baser Amer, forwards Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan, and center Kelly Nabong and Bryan Faundo.

The most important thing for Black, however, is their readiness to meet TNT’s fightback.

“I’m sure coach (TNT coach) Jong (Uichico) will come up with something different, something new (in the next game), so it’s something we got to prepare for,” added Black, a former TNT coach .

Jayson Castro, who had 24 points all in the first three quarters as Uichico opted to rest his ace guard in the fourth frame, said he has no injury but he respects the move of the coaching staff.

According to Castro, they will all be ready come Game 3.

“Siguro wakeup call sa amin ‘yun (loss) na pagdating ng Game 3 ready kami,” said Castro after TNT absorbed just its second defeat this conference after finishing the elimination round with a 10-1 record.

“Lahat naman kami positive kasi siguro kailangan din namin matalo para at least malaman namin ‘yung mga weaknesses namin. So OK naman, lahat naman kaming players positive,” he said.

Uichico explained his move to bench Castro almost midway in the third frame when Meralco led by as many as 24 points, 76-52.

“If we have cut the lead down a little earlier, then I could have brought him back,” Uichico said as TNT trimmed the lead to only 14 points on a basket by Kelly Williams with four minutes to play.

“We started flat and we knew naman that Meralco will come out with a lot of energy, we didn’t come out with a lot of energy. We shouldn’t have played catch-up the whole game and we really (need to) play some defense, match (their) energy, match (their) intensity,” added Uichico.

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