JUST the other night, Meralco couldn’t get into a rhythm, dropped its first game in the tournament, and was forced to go back into basic planning mode.
The Bolts, who had their best start in three conferences of existence in the league, just hope a day’s rest is enough to swing them back on the winning track.
The PBA’s youngest franchise sees action for the second time in three nights aiming to claim a positive result this time, hoping that its defense could contain an enemy loaded with lethal weapons as it clashes with B-Meg in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the San Juan Arena.
Meralco’s superb start of back-to-back victories in the season-ending conference was cut short Friday night, falling behind by double-digits early and failing to execute down the stretch in a 97-81 defeat to Barangay Ginebra.
Now, head coach Ryan Gregorio hopes the loss has awakened the Bolts as they tackle his former ballclub that’s also aching to bounce back from a defeat.
“B-Meg is a tournament favorite,” said Gregorio. “We must find a way to get back strong. No way that we can simply battle them toe-to-toe on offense, they have so many weapons. It must be our lock-down defense mentally that must prevail.”
Defense was the thing that was missing when Meralco met the Kings Friday night. The Bolts allowed Barangay Ginebra to score 31 points right in the opening period, and never had the chance to – even for a moment – seize the lead. The best that Meralco could come to was to within four in the fourth quarter, before the Kings unleashed a 9-0 blast that sealed the outcome, 90-77.
Even without Kerby Raymundo, Rafi Reavis and Rico Maierhofer, the Llamados remain a tough team to beat. But the team that was made stronger with the acquisition of Joe Devance in the off-season will come into the game stung by a 107-102 loss against Alaska on June 22. Which makes B-Meg even more dangerous.
"Their guards are overpowering,” Gregorio said. “We really must focus on making stops and limit their guards’ scoring opportunities.”
Although shooting miserably from the floor, Stefhon Hannah will remain as B-Meg’s import, at least for tonight.
Hannah, the smallest among the current crop of imports, has only shot 3-of-25 from three-point territory. His struggles, though, could easily be overcome by the local crew.
PJ Simon, who possesses the conference-high in scoring among the locals with 33 points, remains the most marked man aside from James Yap.
Yet even with a deadly combination, the Llamados have only managed to score one victory in three games – a 103-90 triumph over Powerade last June 17.
Much of B-Meg’s worries lies on its anemic rebounding. Against Alaska, the Llamados got bludgeoned in the battle off the boards, 51-38, 16 coming on the offensive that netted for the Aces 22 second-chance points. They also missed 11 free throws in that contest, shooting just 24-of-35, with Hannah going 1-of-6. (ZM)