A Wheeler's Opinion: Can Meralco Power Themselves Back?

Or will the Bolts lose their charge against the champs

Jared Dillinger  Meralco Bolts vs Ginebra

Allen Durham can't do it all alone. There's no way he can possibly do it. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)


Two games. Gone. Two games. Lost. 

If you're a fan of the Meralco Bolts, then you are definitely praying that the Bolts will win tomorrow's Game 3 because first and foremost, Meralco is playing against the defending champions, the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, the same team who beat the Bolts in last year's championship series of the PBA Governors' Cup, and secondly, only one PBA team has forced a Game 7 after burying themselves in a 0-3 hole and yet, went on to win the championship. 

That team was the San Miguel Beermen who accomplished the feat against the Alaska Aces during the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup. Unless Norman Black and his wards can somewhat find a way to borrow the auras of the Beermen who did it, it's not recommended that the Bolts put themselves in a silly position because they are currently in a disadvantageous position, to begin with- owing to the gigantic height advantage that the Gin Kings hold. Also, the Bolts are playing a complete Ginebra team this time around with the Best Player of the Conference Greg Slaughter back, healthy and playing.

After faltering, yet again in Game 2 which saw the Gin Kings win, 86-76 to move the Ginebra two wins away from the title, Meralco on the other hand, is still searching for answers, and more importantly, for more made baskets. Why? The Bolts went 13 of 57 from long distance in the first two games of the best-of-7 series, a horrible 24% shooting. The way the Bolts were playing, they appeared to be engaged in a brick-building contest instead of an actual basketball game because they were shooting bricks in both games, literally and figuratively. When they couldn't find a way to attack the paint, they would settle to shoot threes. And they missed. A lot.

Coming into Game 3, the question in the title can be looked in two, different ways:



Yes. The Bolts will regain the charge that enabled them to get back to the Finals


For this to happen, Jared Dillinger must score, not just consistently but, score more baskets. It doesn't matter how many shots you'd miss in a game as long as you make some, too and, help the team get the win. In case of Dillinger, he took 11 shots, 9 from the outside, in Game 1 while only making 2. In Game 2, he had 7 attempts including 5 from the 3-point line, and only made 1 of those 7 field goal attempts. Many basketball analysts are claiming that Dillinger will be the x-factor for Meralco in this series owing to the fact that he wasn't around the last time when Ginebra beat Meralco in 6 games to win the former's first championship in 8 years. 

X-factor, they say? Jared Dillinger has become more like a liability to the offense of the Bolts.

Given the fact that Jared Dillinger is struggling, the Bolts must now lean on outside of Best Import awardee, Allen Durham, to get the offense going because Allen Durham can only do so much and he can't carry the entire Meralco team on his back. Chris Newsome must regain his awesome self.  Baser Amer must find a way not to be trapped by the defense of Ginebra when running pick-and-roll plays. Ranidel De Ocampo must now prove that he can provide the leadership, especially in the 4th quarter and score when needed.  And more importantly, the bench must provide the needed spark especially when the starters are resting. 

The Bolts must find a way to regain that spark which enabled them to finish the elimination round on top, eliminate the Blackwater Elite who forced a do-or-die match in the quarterfinals and, sweep the Star Hotshots in the semifinals. They need the spark tomorrow and they need that spark to be as powerful as possible.


or

No. The Bolts don't have the enough to power to dethrone Ginebra


Height. Heart. Hustle. These are the three H that the Bolts don't have against the defending champions. 


Height

Sure, the Bolts shut down Greg Slaughter to 3 points just a few hours after officially winning the Best Player of the Conference award. But Greg Slaughter wasn't the lone giant in the Ginebra roster that the Bolts need to worry about. Justin Brownlee had 19 points, Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance scored 16 and 10 respectively. The Gin Kings know how to use their height advantage against the Bolts. It's like a 3-headed dragon. You take one head. There are two more. Perfect monster, isn't it?


Heart

Ginebra proved in Game 2 that "Never Say Die" is more than just a mantra. At one point, the Gin Kings were down 9 points but they clamped down on defense and came back to win the game- with a little prayer as LA Tenorio admitted it when he drained that long-distance bomb that was proven to be the game-winner. 


Hustle

In Game 2, Brownlee had 13 rebounds. Scottie Thompson had 9, 4 on the offensive end. Aguilar added 8 rebounds. The entire Ginebra team had 13 offensive rebounds which they converted into 13 second-chance points. They also had 9 steals and blocked 7 shots while forcing 21 Meralco turnovers. If this performance is not hustling for you, then what else can you call it?


Conclusion:

Let's make this one real simple, folks. Ginebra's height advantage won't disappear in a snap. Allen Durham can carry 40+ points if needed but there's a limit to everything. The Bolts can only hope, and pray to the basketball gods that Jared Dillinger will tear a page from Ray Allen's playbook and become the shooter the Bolts need him to be. Otherwise, it will be a sweep. 

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