Meralco Bolts overcome slow start to down KIA
MANILA, Philippines - Most of the time in basketball, the outcome of a game is dictated not by how you start, but how you finish.
Fortunately for the Meralco Bolts, that statement held true on Friday evening, January 30.
Coach Norman Black's squad fought through a slow performance out of the gates and an early scoring barrage from KIA import PJ Ramos to come away with a 90-80 victory over the Carnival on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Coupled with their win over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel last Tuesday, January 27, Meralco has now improved their record in the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup to 2-0. KIA, who lost their opener to the GlobalPort Batang Pier, falls to 0-2 and are currently owners of 12 straight defeats.
Bolts import Josh Davis followed up his 25-24 outing against Ginebra by recording 19 points, 19 rebounds, and 7 steals against a similarly-tall Carnival frontline.
With starting point guard Mike Cortez (right knee) out, Coach Norman Black turned to his former Ateneo Blue Eagles starting point guard, Jai Reyes, who stepped up to the challenge with 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Gary David had another impressive outing, finishing with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting off the bench on Friday.
"We did a good job at halftime of making some adjustments to instill some more energy in our defense," said Black, whose team was down 18-12 and 38-36 at the end of the first and second quarters, respectively.
"Gary David, once again, was very consistent scoring for us offensively," Black said about his team's leading scorer, who's disproving claims that he is now "over the hill" or past his prime.
But the biggest local contributor of the night was Reyes, who was playing against the same team that cut him from their lineup last conference.
"Jai really stepped up for us today and played a big role, scored a lot of points for us in addition to organizing the offense. I'm really proud of Jai…" Black said.
Ramos scored 11 points in the first few minutes of the contest, even hitting a 3-ball at one point. "Did we play any defense against Ramos tonight?" Black jokingly asked after the game. "No matter what you do, it's going to be very difficult to stop him," he later said.
The 7-foot-3 Puerto Rican spearheaded KIA with 34 points and 21 rebounds, but received minimal help from his local teammates once again as only Virgil Buensuceso scored in double-figures with 11 points.
Mark Yee put up just 5 points, while LA Revilla was vastly outplayed by Reyes, coming up with just 3 markers and 1 assist in 20 minutes.
Meralco went on a game-changing run in the third quarter to turn a two-point deficit into an eight-point advantage, 56-48, entering the final period.
Relentless defense by KIA helped them cut the lead to one, 69-68, early in the fourth quarter as Kyle Pascual did a good job of denying Meralco from sending a pass their import's way.
After another defensive stop, the Carnival had a chance to take the lead but threw the ball away, leading to a transition 3-ball from David. Moments later, a basket by Reyes put his team back up seven, 76-69.
After Revilla countered, Reyes earned a trip to the free throw line where he went 2-of-2. Another steal by Davis on the subsequent KIA play led to an easy layup in transition, sealing the contest.
Meralco shot just 38% from the floor in their second straight game without Jared Dillinger, who Black expects to be back for their next game against the Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters on Wednesday, February 4.
"We're looking forward to Talk 'N Text on Wednesday, which will be a tough test for us," he also said.
The Bolts went 7-of-15 from downtown and nailed 23-of-25 attempts from the free throw line. Their bench outscored the Carnival's, 57-22.