MERALCO leaned on a balanced attack led by Mark Macapagal to dismantle NLEX, 97-82, and take the lead in their best-of-three PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal series on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Macapagal led six Bolts in double-figure scoring with 22 points, built around five triples, in just 19 minutes off the bench as his team moved on the verge of clinching a semifinal berth opposite the winner of the Rain or Shine-Ginebra pairing.
“It was a much-better effort from us especially as far as our teamwork is concerned,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “We haven’t been playing as a team offensively, but tonight, we did a much better job sharing the basketball.”
The Bolts, who had 17 assists, can advance with a win in Game Two on Sunday also at the Big Dome.
Meralco also put up a stellar defensive job, particularly on NLEX import Al Thornton, who was limited to 23 points on 2-of-13 shooting in 44 minutes.
“It was a total team effort (defensively),” Black said of their defense on the NBA veteran, who averaged 31.5 points in the eliminations.
With the defense zeroing on Bolts gunner Gary David, who still produced 13 points on a 6-of-12 clip from the field, the seldom-used Macapagal stepped up and caught fire especially in the second half where he fired 16 of his season-high output.
The San Sebastian product scored nine in the payoff period, where the Bolts, who led from start to finish, erect their biggest lead at 23, 93-70.
Josh Davis put up another workmanlike performance with 21 rebounds, 16 points, three assists, two steals, and one block, while Sean Anthony added 14 markers and seven caroms.
MERALCO 97 – Macapagal 22, Davis 16, Anthony 14, David 13, Cortez 10, Hugnatan 10, Hodge 7, Reyes 2, Ildefonso 2, Wilson 1, Caram 0, Dillinger 0, Ferriols 0
NLEX 82 – Thornton 23, Cardona 17, Villanueva J. 13, Canaleta 8, Villanueva E. 6, Taulava 5, Ramos 4, Raymundo 2, Lingganay 2, Baloria 2, Borboran 0, Apinan 0, Arboleda H. 0
Quarterscores: 34-19, 47-36, 69-61, 97-82