Sister teams the Meralco Bolts and NLEX Road Warriors lock horns this Wednesday in the quarterfinal round of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup. The Bolts need just a win to move on to the next phase, but will the Road Warriors force a do-or-die showdown with a victory?
Catch this game live on September 29 at 3 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
Outside of the TNT Tropang Giga, no team is hotter entering the playoffs than the Bolts. Meralco has won all of its last four games and seven of its last eight. The last time they hit the floor, the Bolts scored a 79-66 win over the Barangay Ginebra. Meralco’s top guns were on fire in that game, with Allein Maliksi leading the bunch with 22 points.
The Bolts have mostly been about the trio of Mac Belo, Chris Newsome, and Maliksi on offense, but they might have just added a new head to that offensive monster, as Alvin Pasaol has been on a roll of late. The former UE Red Warrior is heading up at the right time. He scored 15 points in the Ginebra game and 17 before that in a 104-101 win over NLEX. Meralco enters the playoffs with an average of 89.36 points and 53.8 rebounds per game (best in the PBA during the regular season).
The NLEX Road Warriors (5-6)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Philip Paniamogan
- SG: Jericho Cruz
- SF: Calvin Oftana
- PF: Raul Soyud
- C: Kristoffer Porter
The Road Warriors made the playoffs despite going just 1-4 in their last five games, a stretch that includes their aforementioned loss to Meralco. Their only win in that span was against the historically atrocious Blackwater Bossing. Nevertheless, NLEX showed it can punch above its weight when it gave Meralco a run for its money in the last meeting between these teams. The Road Warriors were circling down the drain in the third quarter of that game when they were down by 20, but Oftana and the Road Warriors refused to go down without a fight.
Oftana finished that game with 34 points on the strength of an 8-of-11 shooting from deep. The hope for NLEX is that the rookie’s hands are still smoking for Wednesday’s contest. Also, NLEX needs the likes of Kevin Alas and Jericho Cruz to wake up. Oftana can’t take on Meralco’s high-scoring wings alone, so Alas and Cruz will have to muster way more than the five points they put together in the loss to the Bolts.
Spread: Meralco is just on a much better form than NLEX, who, despite Oftana’s recent explosion, seems to have plenty of issues offensively. Take the Bolts to win but NLEX to cover (+4.5).
Over/Under: The last time these two teams met, it was a high-scoring affair. The pressure is different now though, given that it’s the playoffs. Take the Under (178.5).