MERALCO tries to snap out of a two-game slump when it collides with Barako Bull in Friday’s opening game of a PBA Commissioner’s Cup double-header at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts have lost their last two outings since opening the mid-season, import-spiced conference with five straight victories, relegating them to a tie for second spot with Rain or Shine (5-2).
But a win over the Bolts in the 4:15 p.m. game will allow them to get back on track and regain a share of the lead with sister team Talk ‘N Text (6-2).
“We enter the game with the mindset of having to win to get a chance at the twice-to-beat advantage,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.
Import Josh Davis has fully healed from a back injury he suffered in the team’s 102-86 loss to San Miguel Beer last month, thanks to the All-Star break.
The 6-foot-8 Davis averages 19.8 points and 16.2 rebounds for the Bolts, numbers that are expected to improve gradually as he regains his old form.
Black said shackling Barako Bull import Solomon Alabi, along with local gunners led by JC Intal (14.0 ppg.), Solomon Mercado (11.0 ppg.) and Chico Lanete (10.3 ppg.), is imperative for the Bolts.
“The keys are we have to get back on defense, challenge their outside shooters, and try to control (Barako import Solomon) Alabi inside the paint,” explained the multi-titled coach.
On the other hand, Barako Bull, currently in a four-way logjam for fifth to eight spots with an even 4-4 card, needs to play with a greater sense of urgency in its bid to revive its playoff hopes.
The Energy had lost three of their last four games since starting the conference at 3-0. Barako Bull entered the All-Star break on a losing note after a 102-91 defeat to San Miguel Beer.
Alabi, the team’s 7-foot Nigerian import, will try to spearhead Barako Bull’s playoff push. The former Toronto Raptors backup center averages 23.62 points, 21 rebounds, and a tournament-best 4.0 blocks per game.