Games Today(Smart Araneta Coliseum)3 p.m. – San Miguel vs. Meralco*6 p.m. – Magnolia vs. TnT**TnT, SMB lead series, 2-1
MERALCO coach Norman Black’s faith in the Bolts remains strong as they plot to climb out of their 2-1 deficit and get the job done against San Miguel Beer (SMB) in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup semifinal series.
“We didn’t have any injuries (after the third game) so we’ll be back,” a defiant Mr. Black said after Meralco’s 96-91 Game 3 loss last Sunday.
“It’s not over yet. It’s just three games; it’s a best-of-seven series so as long as we don’t have any injuries to key players, we’ll be ready to play Game 4,” he added.
The Beermen turned to the unstoppable June Mar Fajardo as well as Mo Tautuaa and Vic Manuel down low to gain the edge against the Bolts in the tie-breaking third game. Mr. Fajardo dropped 21 markers, including 10 in the fourth, plus 16 rebounds while Messrs. Manuel and Tautuaa combined for 19 points and 10 boards versus Meralco counterparts Raymond Almazan, Kyle Pascual and Raymar Jose.
Mr. Black tasked his bigs to “continue scrapping” even as he called on his perimeter gunners to “shoot well.”
“I really believe we can compete with anybody, including San Miguel,” he said.
“I thought they (SMB) got a lot of foul shots in the second half and that made a big difference in the game. Of course, that’s the observation of the referees so there’s nothing we can do about it. We just have to keep scrapping.”
He conceded that with six-time MVP Mr. Fajardo and post-threats Messrs. Manuel and Tautuaa, the Beermen will always have the edge size-wise.
“(But) I have enough big men that I can just throw out there to try to at least make things manageable. And then the guards have to shoot well, that’s very, very important,” said Mr. Black.
The Beermen scored 50 points inside the paint against the Bolts’ 44 in Game 3, though Mr. Black’s charges won the rebounding battle, 50-45.
Meralco Bolts’ snipers made only 36.4% of their shots from beyond the arc (eight-of-22) last Sunday, which paled in comparison to their 42.3% marksmanship (11-of-26) when they won Game 2, 99-88, two nights before. — Olmin Leyba