IF its last game was any indication, Meralco is becoming a better defensive team each game in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Bolts beat Barangay Ginebra, 93-82, on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena to remain in the top half of the standings with a 4-2 (win-loss) record, fourth behind league-leaders Rain or Shine and TNT (6-1), and Alaska (5-1).
Prior to the game, Meralco coach Norman Black emphasized the need for a great defensive effort against Ginebra and the Bolts responded from top to bottom.
The Meralco coach lauded the effort of Jarred Dillinger and Cliff Hodge in limiting returning Ginebra import Justin Brownlee, who did have 20 points, 16 rebounds, and 12 assists, but was 0-of-7 from the field in the fourth quarter, according to PBA statistics head Fidel Mangonon III.
“Brownlee is really a good player. He had already proven in the past that he is difficult to deal with on the court. My two guys who basically guarded him did a pretty good job. Of course, you can’t stop him but you have to limit him as much as possible,” said Black.
“I thought JD and Cliff Hodge did a good job. Most of the night, they were the ones guarding him. They did a decent job defensively,” said Black.
Chris Newsome had 22 points against the Kings, but Black also noticed the defensive effort of the former Ateneo cager particularly to Scottie Thompson, who only had four rebounds in that game.
“Chris Newsome, offensively, was really very good tonight. Defensively, we needed him to keep Scottie Thompson off the boards as much as possible,” Black said.
Black also commended Arinze Onuaku, who was a beast on the glass as he collected 23 rebounds, aside from the 24 points he contributed for the team.
Onuaku also bounced back from a sorry loss to Magnolia in which he missed several free throws that cost Meralco the win.
“I thought Arinze bounced back against Magnolia and did a great job controlling the boards. We had to control the defensive rebounds and I thought Arinze stepped up and pulled a lot of rebounds,” said Black.
The 6-foot-9 Onuaku noted the need to control the defensive rebounds against Ginebra being a much-smaller team than the Kings.
“You guys know we are one of the smaller teams in the league. So it’s a big challenge for me to control the glass especially against their size, 7-feet, 6-10, 6-8. We are looking at 6-4, 6-4. So I just tried to control the glass and that’s what I tried to do,” said Onuaku.
Onuaku hopes the trend will continue for the Bolts as they look to continue to thrive on team defense this conference.
“It’s a team game. After a tough loss the last time, we had a hard week of practice. A lot of focus. We know Ginebra is a very talented team. We knew it will take an entire team effort. We were locked in for 48 minutes and got the win,” said Onuaku.