I spent my whole Sunday hoping to sleep with a cocky smile on my face believing Ginebra would win its opener against Meralco in the anticipated Governors’ Cup rematch.
By the end of the first quarter, I was feeling happy when the Kings took a 32-21 lead and the returning Greg Slaughter looking like his normal self rather than someone who spent almost a season without competitive basketball. LA Tenorio was cooking, Justin Brownlee hit an early trey, and the Kings brought the heavy cavalry from the start.
Then, the Bolts found their rhythm. At the start of the second frame, Meralco made a run, cutting Ginebra’s lead to two, 45-43, at the half. Meralco got even hotter in the third as they made a flurry of threes to take the lead and run away with the win halfway through the fourth. By the end of the game, the Bolts got a slice of revenge for their Finals loss and celebrated its 2-0 start this conference, while Ginebra played like they had no idea how to basketball.
Damn. So much for sleeping with a cocky smile on my face.
Meralco is once again off to a great start, this time winning its first two games by an average of 22 points. A win was expected against a feeder team (Blackwater) they needed to grind it out against the defending champions. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the Bolts have talent in all positions, in all ages, plus the addition of an import that is molded like a mountain. And of course, Norman Black.
Breakout point guard Baser Amer did have a stinker against Ginebra and scored only eight points on 3-of-13 shooting. But he was also the one that ignited the Bolts against Blackwater, scoring 20 points with six rebounds and eight assists in that win. Chris Newsome reveled in both victories, averaging splits of 14.5-10-6 through two contests. Jared Dillinger is rediscovering the touch that he lost after he got traded from Talk N Text, and currently a 38% from the three-point line in this season-closing conference. Durham outdid himself in the game against Ginebra, as he flirted with a triple-double (30 points, 24 rebounds and 9 assists).
But from what I’ve seen in the Meralco-Ginebra game, and what I’ve heard from their drubbing of the Elites, the Bolt’s electric run is sourced more from their defense than their offense. PUN INTENDED OF COURSE!
Meralco turned their defense up a notch, denying the Kings at every turn. Ginebra’ couldn’t establish their gameplan against the Bolts. Because of Meralco’s defense, the Kings’ attack lost its flow and rhythm, and it felt like I was chewing a two-hour-old gum.
Ginebra made just 36% of their shots, sinking 27 field goals in 48 minutes. (I cringed while writing that). Tenorio was 3-of-7 from the inside, Brownlee shot 3-of-10, Chris Ellis was 2-of-7 and Paulo Taha was 1-of-5. All in all, the team with two 6-11 monsters in Aguilar and Slaughter scored 36 points in the paint, missing 38 (I repeat, 38!!!) of their 60 attempts inside the arc.
I have to admit, I did not watch Meralco’s win over Blackwater, but the stats say it was pretty much the same script even though the Elites were slightly better than the Kings. Blackwater made 35% of their field goals and converted 30 shots in the game. They also was able to score 41% of their inside attempts, translating to 42 points in the paint.
The Meralco Bolts are currently running through white-hot electricity right now, but its best if they remember that sustining their form will rely heavily on the defense. Let Blackwater and Ginebra tell the rest of the teams just how ruthless their defense really is.
Anyway, let’s bounce back Kangkonatics!
– Roland Quilente
Stats from HumbleBola
(image credits to the PBA Media Bureau, also used in Rappler‘s recap of the game)