MERALCO coach Norman Black expressed no qualms about how big it is to own a twice-to-beat advantage against four-time champion Purefoods going into the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs.
“We need to get any advantage against the defending champions,” Black admitted after the Bolts made it inside the Top Six following their 82-70 win over Globalport Batang Pier on Tuesday at the end of the eliminations.
The Bolts will now try to end the Hotshots’ title retention bid when they go for a berth in the semis in their 7 p.m. game at the Astrodome on Thursday.
Despite the seeming advantage his team has, Black said beating the defending champions is easier said than done.
“It will be a tough match-up against Purefoods despite the twice-to-beat advantage we have. They are the defending champions and they have the experience and confidence,” said Black, whose team lost to Purefoods in their November 23 encounter.
The multi-titled Meralco mentor knows exactly the importance of finishing the series right away as it will be difficult to give Purefoods a new lease on life and face the Hotshots in a do-or-die encounter.
“Against the odds, we will try to win the first game so we can advance. They key for us is to match the defense of Purefoods because we know their defense will be solid,” said Black.
Purefoods is no stranger to digging itself out of a huge hole.
Just last season of this very same conference, the Hotshots began their campaign with a 1-5 (win-loss) slate but went on to win the tournament for their second consecutive crown.
“We certainly didn’t want to be in this position of having to win two games to advance, but it is the challenge in front of us so we’re going to embrace it and meet it straight on,” Purefoods coach Tim Cone said.
“I feel we have a strong collective belief and confidence that we can do it, so it will be interesting to see how we respond. We’ll just focus on the one game before we worry about the next,” Cone added.