COMING off its worst beating in the young PBA season, Meralco tries to pick up the pieces and heal its shattered pride when it goes up against sister team NLEX on Wednesday in the Philippine Cup eliminations at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts (2-1) were demolished by the rampaging Alaska Aces last week, 105-64, and coach Norman Black said the team is using its 4:15 p.m. match against the Road Warriors as an opportunity to recover its bearings and confidence.
“It’s a big game for us because we want to bounce back from our bad loss against Alaska,” said Black.
Bouncing back, however, is easier said than done, considering the solid frontline of the Road Warriors led by Asi Taulava and Enrico Villanueva who complement their outside gunners in Nino Canaleta, Mac Cardona, and revitalized playmaker Jonas Villanueva.
The 6-foot-9 Taulava, last season’s Comeback Player of the Year, averages 14.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in the season-opening conference, while Cardona is coming off a 25-point game in the Road Warriors’s stunning 97-81 whipping of Ginebra last week.
“Defensively, our main focus will be on Asi and Macmac, but we will also have to do a good job closing out on their shooters,” added Black.
Meantime, NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez said the Road Warriors will try to build on the momentum they gained after beating a powerhouse squad like Ginebra.
After giving up 102 points to their opponents during their first two games, the Road Warriors tightened up their defense and limited the Kings to just 81 points.
Fernandez is expecting no less than this same defensive effort against a Bolts side that has two of the league’s energetic forwards in Cliff Hodge and Sean Anthony.
“I told the players to really step up their defense. They just proved that against Ginebra that they can play defense, not like the past games, especially against Talk ‘N Text,” noted Fernandez, who steered the San Beda Red Lions to their fifth straight NCAA men’s basketball crown just two weeks ago.