The Meralco Bolts are 3-0 in their last three meetings with the Magnolia Hotshots, dating back to 2019. Can they extend that streak when they take on the Hotshots in Game 1 of the semifinals? Or, will the Hotshots draw first blood in the series?
Catch this game live on October 3 at 2 pm, Manila time.
The Meralco Bolts (9-2)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: John Pinto
- SG: Chris Newsome
- SF: Mac Belo
- PF: John Quinto
- C: Raymond Almazan
The Bolts kept their title hopes alive in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup by defeating the NLEX Road Warriors in the quarterfinals with a convincing 97-86 win Friday night. Chris Newsome led the way for Meralco, as he scored 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. He also had nine rebounds, six assists, and two blocks. Newsome’s performance against NLEX was a nice set-up for him leading into the series against the Hotshots, whom he buried with a game-winning bucket in a 95-94 Meralco victory on Sep. 1.
Newsome finished that game with 14 points, while Mac Belo put up 22 points. Newsome, Belo, and Allein Maliksi are clearly the Bolts’ top guns but even when they aren’t clicking, Meralco’s role players have shown that they are capable of stepping up. Anjo Caram scored 16 against NLEX. Then there’s the pair of Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan. The two combined for 33 points in the win over Magnolia and 27 during the aforementioned NLEX game.
The Magnolia Hotshots (8-3)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Jio Jalalon
- SG: Paul Lee
- SF: Rome dela Rosa
- PF: Calvin Abueva
- C: Ian Sangalang
Magnolia took care of business in the quarterfinals, as the Hotshots swept the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in that round, punctuated by a 96-89 win on Thursday. The Hotshots will enter the semis on a four-game unbeaten streak, a stretch that also includes wins over the San Miguel Beermen and the NorthPort Batang Pier. Magnolia should have fresher legs in Game 1 of the Meralco series, considering the Hotshots finished their quarterfinals assignment a day earlier than the Bolts.
That’s something to note because Newsome just played 41 minutes on Friday, leaving Meralco’s best player with only a full day to recover. It’s not going to be easy dealing with Calvin Abueva on a gas tank that isn’t quite full. Speaking of The Beast, Abueva played like an import in the series-clinching win over Rain or Shine, scoring 20 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. He also had 18 points and 14 rebounds in the first meeting this season with Meralco. Magnolia averaged 88.5 points against Rain or Shine’s defense that’s arguably the best this conference, so it’s fair to expect the Hotshots to have their way better offensively against Meralco.
Spread: Magnolia will take Game 1, as Abueva cripples Meralco on both ends of the floor. The Hotshots win and cover (-1.5).
Over/Under: Magnolia and Meralco are two teams with good offenses and defenses. This game will be decided in the final minutes of the game. Take the Under (171).