The question was: How were the Meralco Bolts small front court ever going to stop him down low to force a sudden death match?
It turned out that they didn’t need to.
June Mar still got his way near the basket, going for 9/11 from the field and 12/15 from the free throw line as was expected from the Kraken. The game started out as everyone had expected. Junemar dominated inside. Arizona Reid scored a bunch of points. The Bolts opened up with approximately six to seven midrange jumpers and it took them five minutes for Cliff Hodge to realize that it wasn’t illegal to score near the basket.
Norman Black did not like what he saw.
Which is a picture we have all begun to become familiar with:
And then along came Jared Dillinger and Kelly Nabong. The Meralco Bolts captain came in the second half, burned all cylinders, and went kamikaze driving towards the paint. While it was important that he actually scored of those drives, those penetrations made the Beermen defense more alert and free up space on the perimeter.
You know what happens the zone closes in on defense? Jared Dillinger the three-point specialist bombs away and would go off for 4 for 4 from beyond the three-point line.
*Looks up Jared Dillinger’s three-point shooting at Humblebola Stats*
Dillinger had shot only 30% of his three pointers this season and a total of 28.9% during the past three years. This was certainly a performance that came out of nowhere, but it is an encouraging one if the Bolts are looking to win in Game Two of this matchup.
He was not the only one to have an outburst against the Beermen. Kelly Nabong exploded for 15 points and 12 rebounds, recording his first double-double since the 12th of January 2014 against the Alaska Aces, while he was with Global Port. While he was fun to watch hitting midrange shots and connecting with Mike Cortex for three baskets, it was his defense on Junemar Fajardo that really deserved a round of applause.
Coincidentally, both didn’t play in the last match-up between these teams, so maybe it was just a performance overdue.
The Beermen and Bolts trade shots back and forth as the Beermen countered with a nice selection of corner threes and JUNEMAR. The Bolts slowly built the lead up to 99-90 halfway through the fourth quarter before the Beermen ripped a 9-0 run to tie the game up at 99-all. I could imagine one of Norman Black’s certain orifice tighten up really quick at that moment.
But desperate times call for desperate measures.
For the past three years prior to this game, Reynel Hugnatan has attempted 14 three-point shots and made only three of them. There was no better time than in this game to make his fourth.
For the Beermen, it can only be disheartening that out of all the players on that Meralco Bolts squad, it had to be Hugnatan who would be the one to stop their 9-0 scoring run and prevent them from advancing right away to the semis.
All I want in life now is a lock of Hugnatan’s pony tail and sacrifice it to the gods of basketball.
So for the San Miguel Beermen, they played a REALLY good offensive game. A 115.5 offensive rating is not easy to accomplish. But unfortunately for them, once again they allowed the Bolts to have their way on offense, letting the Bolts post a 123.7 offensive rating. In their first matchup, the Bolts shot a blistering 58.9 eFG%. In this game, they shot 57.8%. When your offense is running like that, with a supporting cast that is ready to assist their leading offensive player, it’s not that hard to get a win.
And what a win the Meralco Bolts got here.
Let’s check in with Coach Norman Black to see his reactions and what he expects from the next sudden-death game.
Okay, Coach. Keep your head on straight. We need you for one more game.
Videos courtesy of ABS-CBN Sports, Feature Picture courtesy from Richard Esquerra (sports.abs.cbn.com)