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PBA: Bolts shoot for 2-0 lead

Game Today
(City of Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex)
7 p.m. – Star vs Meralco
Game Tomorrow
(Batangas City Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs TNT KaTropa

The Meralco Bolts look to move one step closer toward a return trip to the finals and hurdle what many see as another defensive battle against the Star Hotshots in Game 2 of their best-of-five semifinal series tonight in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the City of Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

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Meralco survived numerous adversities Sunday to pull off a 72-66 victory over Star two nights ago at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna, but coach Norman Black is preparing for another defensive struggle that many see as a norm rather than the exception.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. as the two teams conclude their tour of Laguna, this time a short drive from where the series opener was held.

“They forced us a lot of turnovers during the course of the game, so it’s gonna be a defensive struggle with Star,” said Black after Meralco turned the ball over 22 times. “We’ll never know how each game goes, we might score 110, who knows? But the way it looks, it’s really gonna be a defensive struggle.”

The Bolts started the game conceding 11 straight points, fell behind 20-3 late in the first quarter, allowing the Hotshots to score 14 straight to trail 59-47 early in the fourth, trail 66-57 with 3:43 remaining and assistant coach Jimmy Alapag and center Kelly Nabong having words at the bench.

But Meralco ended the contest by scoring 15 in a row, with southpaw Jared Dillinger leading the charge on offense with two triples and a layup that broke a 66-all tie, to complete the escape act that was also aided by six consecutive turnovers by Star in that stretch.

The Hotshots ended the game with 26 turnovers, something coach Chito Victolero hopes would be corrected.

“We expect naman na it’s a defensive game. Yun nga lang medyo andami naming turnovers nung huli, and I think yun ang nakaapekto nung laro,” Victolero said. “We’ll try to do something sa turnovers namin and we’ll bounce back in Game 2.”

Meralco, aiming for a second straight finals appearance in the Governors’ Cup, had three comeback wins in a span of seven days. The Bolts were down 18 against the San Miguel Beermen at the close of the elims and 12 opposite Blackwater in the knockout quarters match.

Dillinger, however, would rather have a consistent game right from the get-go.

“Coach says it all the time, a win is a win and we’ll take it, but I’m tired coming back from behind. Can we just get a normal one?” Dillinger said.

Bolts import Allen Durham shrugged off what Black described as “running gingerly” in the first quarter due to the sprained right ankle he suffered against the Elite in the quarters to produce 23 points and 23 rebounds. The reigning Best Import can only look for his ankle to improve this time.

His Hotshots counterpart, Kris Acox, had a strong start but was a non-factor for most of the second half due to foul trouble. The Icelandic big man, who had seven points and 16 rebounds, is eager to make up for his inconsistency.

Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and TNT KaTropa began their best-of-five semis series at press time at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Game 2 is set tomorrow evening at the Batangas City Coliseum.