Come the much-awaited Finals rematch, the Bolts can use these to their advantage
The Bolts have been preparing for this rematch since losing to Ginebra in last year's Finals (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
While the defending champions, the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings needed a Game 4 victory which was tremendously heated and was mired with fouls and big disparity in the free throws awarded, the Meralco Bolts, last year's runner-up to the Governors' Cup champions, the Gin Kings themselves, have swept through the first two games of their semifinal series against the Star Hotshots and barely holding onto the win in Game 3 to sweep the series and book a second consecutive Governors' Cup Finals appearance.
Now, everyone has been expecting that both teams will meet again come the Finals not minding the fact that Ginebra even faced then Grand Slam-seeking San Miguel Beermen back in the quarterfinals. That match-up, of course, was won by the Gin Kings.
Since Justin Brownlee nailed that painful three-pointer at the end of Game 6 of last year's Finals to give the Gin Kings its first championship in 8 years, revenge has been at the back of the minds of the players of Norman Black. They were out-lasted, out-muscled, and even out-coached by one of the greatest and winningest coaches in the history of the PBA in Tim Cone.
Since then, the Bolts have improved in many ways. For starters, they ended the elimination rounds being the top-seeded team entering the quarterfinals. Then, they beat the Blackwater Elite by leaning on their experience. And, import Allen Durham has produced great numbers these days and we can expect more from him when he battles against Brownlee starting with Game 1 on Friday.
The 3 Major Things that Meralco may Use against the Gin Kings:
Allen Durham's Numbers
If there's one player who deserves to be praised for leading the Bolts back to the Finals anew, it's definitely Allen Durham, the leading candidate for the Best Import award this conference. Why? Here below are the reasons why he is first and foremost, on track to win back-to-back Best Import awards:
- Through 11 games of the elimination round, Durham has averaged 27 points, a league-leading 19 rebounds and another league league-leading 7 assists. In addition to this, he had a near triple-double in their game against the Gin Kings during the elimination round which the Bolts won, of course. He scored 30 points, grabbed 24 rebounds and dishing 9 assists.
- During the semifinal series against the Star Hotshots, Durham was completely an unstoppable beast on both ends of the court as highlighted by his performance in Game 3 which saw him produce 24 points, 19 boards and 6 dimes. Big time player producing big-time numbers on a big-time stage. That's exactly the kind of player who is poised to win another Best Import award.
Okay. Meralco has been turning the ball over too, as highlighted by their 20 turnovers in Game 3 victory over Star. But what enabled the Bolts to win was the mere fact that the Bolts were the more aggressive team in terms of converting those turnovers into points.
The result: 18 points off turnovers for the Bolts. Now, against a Ginebra team who had 18 turnovers per game in their semifinal series against the Talk N Text KaTropa, the Bolts should be able to continuously pound on the mistakes made by Ginebra ball handlers come Friday because that is what they do best. Every time they successfully force a turnover, they run on the break for easy scores. If you're Tim Cone, you'd surely want the turnover numbers as low as possible because not even Justin Brownlee's 46 points can save them if they have more turnovers.
Meralco's Bench Production
Looking back to last year's Finals series between these two squads, Meralco was clearly outplayed despite having Jimmy Alapag in the line-up. One of the main reasons why the Bolts lost the series was the fact that there was no significant reinforcement from the bench players.
Fast-forward to 2017, the Bolts have reloaded themselves with veteran and proven winner, Ranidel de Ocampo, and young bloods like Mike Tolomia to be the leading bench players. Ranidel de Ocampo for one, has already proven that he is worthy of the trade from his long-time team, Talk N Text, as he delivered with his leadership and also, his ability on clutch situation as highlighted by his performance in Game 3 against Star when he scored 13 points, including the 2-point basket which gave the Bolts a 5-point advantage in the extra period. The Bolts need RDO and his timely baskets if they want revenge against the champs.
Game 1 of the best-of-7 Finals series is 4 days away and for Norman Black and the rest of the title-seeking Bolts, having a longer preparation time means they should be well-prepared for the war that they are about to get involved with. If anything, this will be an exciting championship series between two teams that are proven winners and two coaches who are both known as basketball geniuses.