The Magnolia Hotshots have their backs against the wall, with the Meralco Bolts gaining ground. Will Chito Victolero steer his team to a win in Game 5? Or will the Bolts send the Hotshots packing for an early vacation?
Catch this game live on Wednesday, March 30 at 6 pm, Manila time.
The Magnolia Hotshots (1-2)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Mark Barroca
- SG: Paul Lee
- SF: Calvin Abueva
- PF: Rome Dela Rosa
- C: Mike Harris
Magnolia looked like the best team in the PBA in the regular season. It’s been a different story in the semifinals, as the Hotshots now find themselves a loss away from a disappointing exit. After winning the series opener against Meralco, the Hotshots have lost Games 2 (81-75) and 3 (101-95), which puts a bigger focus on Paul Lee. The UE Red Warriors product has been out of his element in the past couple of games. He’s been ice cold from deep in those contests, going 1/13 on his 3-pointers.
Lee can’t afford to be just as atrocious again with his shooting, particularly with Magnolia’s season on the line. The good thing for Magnolia is that its other two main guards in Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon continue to churn out great performances. Barroca had 15 points and six assists in Game 3, while Jalalon came off the bench and 13 points and four assists. Plus, the Hotshots remain dominant inside, having outscored the Bolts in the paint in each of the first three games of the series.
The Meralco Bolts (2-1)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Chris Banchero
- SG: Chris Newsome
- SF: Allein Maliksi
- PF: Tony Bishop
- C: Raymond Almazan
Meralco is on the verge of pulling off an upset in the semis, mainly because it’s been having more success with what the Hotshots are falling short. Outside of the series opener, the Bolts have sank more threes in each game than the Hotshots. In Game 3, Meralco buried 10 threes to just six by the Hotshots. Chris Banchero outplayed Lee, scoring 23 points with three treys, while Lee finished with just five points. Lee isn’t just going sour from the field because of mere cold spell.
Something the Bolts are doing is having a tremendous impact on the Hotshots’ shooter. Starting Chris Hodge over Allein Maliksi seems to be producing positive results for the Bolts, who have not lost in this series since making that switch. Even simpler reason for the Bolts’ resurgence is their aggressiveness on offense. They have taken 58 attempts from the free-throw line in the last two games, while Magnolia only had 39 during that same stretch.
Spread: Magnolia is too good of a team to be eliminated in four games. Look for a strong performance by the Hotshots. Taking Magnolia to cover (-4.5).
Over/Under: Meralco’s high free-throw rate and the possibility of the Hotshots finally regaining their outside touch are reasons to believe the total will hit the Over (187.5) in this contest.