MIDTABLE Meralco looks to even its record, move to the top half of the standings and boost its quarterfinals chances when the Bolts take on cellar-dwelling Blackwater on Friday in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Coach Norman Black is treating the match as a must-win, with the tournament already halfway through the short elimination round.
The Bolts hold a 2-3 record, while the Elite are at the cellar, in the company of NLEX and defending champion Star Hotshots with their 1-4 record.
But Black said they can’t take the Elite lightly in the 4:15 p.m. match because of the way the expansion team has played in its last two games.
“It’s a must-win for us if we want to make the next round,” said Black. “Blackwater played well in their last two games so it won’t be easy.”
High-scoring import Andre Emmett has been leading the team in scoring with his 37.0 points per game average, but Black wants to see the team play defense above all.
In Meralco’s three losses this conference, the Bolts gave up 96 points, compared to the 88-points-per game limit in their two victories.
“We need to establish some consistency in our game, especially on defense,” explained Black.
Black also hopes to see better ball movement in order to get two-time PBA scoring champion Gary David back in the scheme of things.
So far, ‘El Granada’ is averaging just 8.6 points per contest this conference on a frigid 20 percent shooting from three-point zone.
The 36-year-old Meralco gunner scored in double-figures only once this conference, pumping 23 points in the Bolts’ 106-95 overtime win over San Miguel Beer.
“We must also improve our teamwork on offense because our ball movement has been stagnant,” he added.
The Elite, meantime, are coming off an 83-76 double-overtime defeat to fellow expansion team KIA Carnival.
Marcus Douthit, the team’s do-it-all import, struggled on offense against KIA’s shot-blocking reinforcement Hamady N’Diyae.
The naturalized Gilas big man took 22 attempts and wound up with 16 points.
Still Black said they have devised a way to try to contain the 35-year-old Douthit with the Bolts expected to rely on Reynel Gunatan, Danny Ildefonso, John Ferriols and new boy Kelly Nabong.