IMPORT Eric Dawson took charge in the endgame, scoring eight of Meralco’s last 10 points in an 88-85 victory over defending champion San Mig Coffee at the start of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals series on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-9 Dawson, who hurt his knee in an overtime win over Rain or Shine just two nights earlier, also grabbed two key defensive rebounds and hit two pressure-packed free throws which turned out to be the marginal points as Meralco took a 1-0 lead in the race-to-two wins series.
“I don’t know what he’s (Dawson) made of. He’s not limping at all, though it’s (Dawson’s left knee) swelling but you cannot see it because his walk is normal. Just goes to show he’s so used to playing in playoff situation,” Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio said.
The Bolts can oust fancied San Mig and win a playoff series against the SMC-owned franchise for the first time in the franchise's history with another win in Game Two on Sunday, also at the Big Dome.
Dawson, the 2012 NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year, matched San Mig Coffee coach Denzel Bowles’ game-long intensity as he finished with 25 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and two steals to earn Best Player of the Game honors.
“There were some anxious moments for us especially at the start. We simply could not stop Denzel Bowles. Luckily, towards the end, we were able to make some stops and were able to stay on them defensively,” added Gregorio.
Forwards Sunday Salvacion and Ronjay Buenafe added 13 points apiece while combining for six triples as the duo helped the Bolts climb back from a 10-point first half deficit.
Meralco 88 - Dawson 25, Buenafe 13, Salvacion 13, Manuel 8, Cardona 8, Ross 7, Hugnatan 6, Hodge 4, Reyes 3, Artadi 1
San Mig 85 - Bowles 37, Mallari 12, Simon 9, Yap 8, Pingris 7, Barroca 6, Devance 6, Gaco 0, Najorda 0, Reavis 0
Quartersocres: 16-26, 47-43, 70-66, 88-85