Coach Norman Black was pleased with the way Meralco responded in the second half with a defensive effort that led to an 83-74 win over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and a 2-1 lead in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.
The Bolts had to erase a 13-point deficit in the second quarter and were behind 48-40 at the half by making a number of key stops during a second half that saw more clanks than swishes from both teams.
“We just talked about the fact that they shot 70-plus percent (from two-point range) in the first half and they had 30 points in the paint but we were only down by eight points,” Black said after the game held Sunday, April 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I remember I told them a story about how the great Ron Jacobs telling me that if you shoot a very high percentage in the first half and you’re only up a few points, it’s not very good because the other team certainly has a chance to come back.
“It was my way of trying to motivate my players to understand that we’re still in the game, we still have a chance to come back. We have to play a little bit better defense and play better offense which we did in the second half,” added Black.
One of the things Meralco did was by forcing Ginebra to make just four out of 32 shots from three-point land during the contest, a huge contrast to the 23-of-69 it made during the first two games.
The Bolts also forced Justin Brownlee, who had a hot start offensively while blocking shots on the other end, to go 2-of-12 from the field in the last 24 minutes of the contest.
Cliff Hodge perhaps epitomized the way Meralco’s defense was played with his hustle and relentless effort trying to guard Brownlee and Christian Standhardinger.
He didn’t score but Hodge had six rebounds and intangibles that were not seen on the statsheet.
Meralco backed it up with solid execution on offense, with import Tony Bishop heated up on his way to 30 points, Chris Newsome scored 20 points to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists while Allein Maliksi made most of his 10 points in a timely manner.
The night ended with happy faces from the Meralco faithful and halfway closer towards ending its long misery against Ginebra and a first PBA championship.