DENZEL Bowles put on a show as Purefoods dealt Meralco's hopes for top-two spot a big blow with a 96-85 victory in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Bowles banged in a personal conference-best 37 points to go with 21 rebounds, capping a splendid performance with a 20-foot jumper off Reynel Hugnatan that doused cold water on the Bolts’ desperate fourth-quarter charge.
By ending their elimination-round campaign with a fourth straight win, the Hotshots took first place with an 8-3 (win-loss) card, half a game infront of Rain or Shine and Talk 'N Text.
However, Purefoods will have to settle for a No. 3 seeding if both Rain or Shine and Talk 'N Text win their final elimination-round outings.
Still, Purefoods Star coach Tim Cone said he couldn’t care less, saying finishing at third spot would be fine by him.
“It’s (top two finish) out of our hands. We’re not gonna sweat over it. We’re very happy for the best-of-three (quarterfinal series). That was our immediate goal so anything beyond that is a bonus,” Cone said.
“If we end up third, I’ll be happy with that.”
Meralco, on the other hand, fell to 6-4 in a tie for fourth spot with sister team NLEX which holds the edge via the winner-over-the-other rule in case the tiebreak comes into play.
The Bolts, however, can still clinch a spot in the top two - and twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs - if they beat Blackwater and both Rain or Shine and Talk 'N Text lose their final matches.
The win was a sweet payback for the Hotshots, who, just two months ago, got knocked out by the Bolts during the Philippine Cup quarterfinals, ending their quest for a fifth successive title.
Meralco played without energetic forward Cliff Hodge, who is out due to a sprained right ankle.
Without Hodge’s defense and rebounding, Bowles was able to do his damage inside.
“Denzel got off to his rhythm very early. He went through a little cold spot in the third quarter, and then picked it up in fourth,” said Cone.
“When he’s shooting that good, he’ll really, really be difficult to stop.”
Josh Davis led the Bolts with 31 points and 13 rebounds. Gary David added 27.
Purefoods 96 - Bowles 37, Simon 15, Yap 15, Mallari 7, Barroca 7, Maliksi 5, Reavis 4, Pingris 4, Devance 2, Taha 0, Melton 0,
Meralco 85 - Davis 31, David 27, Dillinger 10, Anthony 7, Cortez 4, Hugnatan 4, Macapagal 2, Reyes 0, Wilson 0, Ildefonso 0, Caram 0, Ferriols 0.
Quarterscores: 29-21, 50-45, 78-67, 96-85