MERALCO coach Norman Black admitted giving rookies Ed Daquioag and Jonathan Grey some playing minutes - especially down the stretch - is somehow taking its toll on the Bolts after absorbing their second straight setback in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday night.
But it's actually a one-step backward, two-steps forward thing for the team.
"Right now we're playing a couple of rookies a lot of minutes because we want to develop them to become very good players," said the multi-titled coach in the aftermath of the Bolts' 94-90 setback against the Phoenix Fuel Masters at the San Juan Arena.
"With that, sometimes you'll gonna make mistakes down the stretch."
Grey and Daquioag were very visible against the Fuel Masters in the endgame, where they missed a basket each that hurt the Bolts' chances to recover after losing grip of a 10-point fourth quarter lead.
Daquioag played for 30 minutes while Grey suited up for 23 minutes.
The silver lining, however, saw Grey finishing with a team-high and career-best 24 points on 7 of 12 shooting, while adding four rebounds and two assists.
Daquioag for his part, added 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists. He shot 5 of 10 from the field.
"In as much as I want to win every game, I make sure I develop my guys for future games, " Black stressed. "You never like losing. It's a bad feeling, but at the same time, you got to make them ready for the next game."
The loss to Phoenix was similar to the one Meralco suffered against Alaska the last time when it failed to protect a nine-point lead in the final two minutes to drop an 81-79 heartbreaker.
While it was another disappointing experience, Black said it was a matter of the Bolts not making the right plays when needed it most.
"It was nip and tuck down the stretch, and they made the plays and we didn't," he said.