By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Meralco Bolts re-entered the winning column of the PBA Governor’s Cup after demolishing the NLEX Road Warriors, 114-98, last February 23, 2023, held at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
After suffering back-to-back painful losses, the Bolts finally regrouped and used their past lapses to decipher the rolling Road Warriors team.
Veteran import KJ McDaniels put up one of his best performances of the conference after dominating with 31 big points and 20 rebounds to help improve Meralco’s win-loss record to 4-3.
Just like their last games, the Bolts failed to start the opening quarter with efficient scoring after only registering a point in the first three minutes of the ball game.
Meralco had to dig deep and overcome an early 7-1 deficit, thanks to their well-executed interior plays led by McDaniels and the hardworking Cliff Hodge who brought in the much-needed energy that helped them keep up with NLEX’s intensity in the first quarter.
The momentum that McDaniels and Hodge then became contagious as the backcourt trio of Chris Newsome, Aaron Black, and Allein Maliksi joined hands to put up most of the points Meralco scored in the closing minutes of the opening period.
What was once a close encounter suddenly became a one-sided affair after Meralco went unconscious from the shooting field, piling up their largest lead to as much as 21 points midway through the second quarter.
NLEX showed some signs of life and responded with their own offensive avalanche in the last four minutes, thanks to head coach Frankie Lim’s adjustment offensively.
From a predictable offense where they just put the ball to their import Wayne Selden Jr., Lim opted to run more pick-and-pop plays for energetic center Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser who knocked down two open treys in that sequence alongside a power put-back over McDaniels.
Both teams figured in a defensive chess match at the start of the second half but it was coach Norman Black’s team that became more consistent on the offensive end.
Despite NLEX putting up points on board in the final canto, the Bolts were still the more dominant team in the perimeter.
Maliksi backstopped McDaniels with 19 markers, six rebounds, and four dimes while Newsome contributed 18 points.
Meralco will look to bag its second consecutive victory when they face the rejuvenated Magnolia Hotshots Chicken Timplados on February 26, 2023.
Meanwhile, the Road Warriors hope to break their slump on March 2, 2023, when they square off with the Terrafirma Dyip.