The Meralco Bolts are charged up following their win in Game 1 of this quarterfinals series.
Will the Bolts get the job done and move on to the semifinals round where the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel are waiting for the winner of this matchup? Or, will the Beermen rebound and book a ticket to meet their sister team in the next phase of the playoffs?
Catch this game today at 6:45 pm, Manila time.
The Meralco Bolts (1-0)
The Bolts got enough power to take down San Miguel last Friday, 78-71, to force a deciding match in this quarterfinal pairing this Sunday.
Reynel Hugnatan took it upon himself to lead Meralco, as the 43-year-old veteran pumped in 16 points to go with seven rebounds in 36 minutes of floor duty, while Aaron Black proved his worthiness as a pro by scoring 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Hugnatan has been dependable this conference, and in the first meeting with San Miguel in the bubble, he mustered 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, albeit in an 89-82 loss last October.
Hugnatan may be forced to play lots of minutes again if Meralco big man Raymond Almazan can’t give it a go this Sunday. Almazan played just a bit over two minutes last Friday, as he was forced to exit the game following a collision with San Miguel forward Von Pessumal.
Despite Almazan’s limited playing time, the Bolts managed to outrebound San Miguel, 59-48, thanks in large part to Cliff Hodge and John Quinto, who had 10 and 13 boards, respectively. Meralco also beat the Beermen in the glass battle in the October game, 57-39.
Meralco finished the elimination round tops in the PBA in both defensive (76.0) and total (54.4)rebound percentages.
The San Miguel Beermen (0-1)
The Beermen are hoping they’ll have Alex Cabagnot for this do-or-die game against the Bolts. Cabagnot missed Friday’s match because of a hamstring issue, and as of this writing, his status for the sudden-death game against Meralco remains up in the air.
Without Cabagnot, Beermen head coach Leo Austria decided to insert Paul Zamar into the starting unit. The former UE Red Warrior scored eight points on a salty 3-of-10 shooting from the field but did have five rebounds and three assists. Moala Tautuaa, meanwhile, paced San Miguel with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Tautuaa and Russel Escoto had found much success attacking the interior defense of Meralco, as the Beermen scored 42 points in the paint to just 24 by the Bolts. With Almazan in trouble of missing Game 2 of the series, San Miguel’s big guys and slashers could have a field day in the paint once again. In that case, the Beermen should give Tautuaa more touches. He had the least shot attempts out of all the Beermen’s starters in Game 1.
The Beermen will rely less on their outside shooting, as they make a concerted effort to pound the ball inside with Tautuaa handling the business down low.
Tautuaa finishes with at least 17 points, while the Beermen’s zone defense slows down Meralco. San Miguel advances into the semifinals via an 84-80 win over the Bolts.