COMING off a 10-day respite, Meralco hopes to resume its climb up the standings when it takes on slumping Air21 on Wednesday in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts (2-3) won their most recent outing, a 90-89 squeaker over Globalport Batang Pier behind the buzzer-beating three-pointer off the glass by Sunday Salvacion to take a spot in the middle of the leaderboard in joint fifth.
They now hope to score a more comfortable win against Air21 (1-4) in the 5:15 p.m. match.
Fil-Am Chris Ross took over the starting point guard spot when Solomon Mercado was traded late January to Globalport, and coach Ryan Gregorio said he is happy with how his team has been playing so far.
“We’re still in the middle of the pack. But our team competes and doesn’t just roll over and die,” said Gregorio, noting that two of Bolts’ three losses this conference were decided in the final minutes of the game.
Import Eric Dawson is again expected to power the Bolts offense after averaging solid numbers with 23.6 points, 15.2 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 3.2 blocks.
But Gregorio stressed that the locals, particularly Macmac Cardona, Ronjay Buenafe and even the veteran Salvacion will have to inject some much-needed scoring support to ensure that the team doesn’t get too predictable on offense.
The Bolts are also expected to be extra careful against an Express squad that is out to break a four-game losing streak that started after they debuted with a 74-70 win over the Barangay Ginebra Kings.
Air21’s do-it-all import Michael Dunigan is coming off a 15-point performance in the team’s low-scoring 53-60 loss to Petron - his lowest production so far this conference.
“They (Express teammates) look for me to score more, but I can’t just be the first option. Of course, coach (Franz Pumaren) wants to run the offense as it’s supposed to be run. We just need to find ways going inside,” said the University of Oregon standout.