The Meralco Bolts continued their strong playoff push in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup with an 85-78 win over the slumping Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Thursday, November 5, at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Pampanga.
With the win, Meralco rose to a fourth-place tie with Phoenix with identical 5-3 win-loss records. Rain or Shine slid to sixth with a 4-3 slate as it absorbed its second straight loss.
Chris Newsome led the balanced attack with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Baser Amer and the ageless Reynel Hugnatan added 14 and 13 markers, respectively.
Following a slight 48-44 edge at halftime, the Bolts stunned the Painters seemingly out of nowhere with a game-changing 22-4 run to start the third quarter, ending with a Cliff Hodge layup at the 3:49 mark for the 70-48 breakaway.
“We really talked about trying to come out strong in the third quarter. In some of the past games, that has been one of our weaknesses, coming out of the dugout strong. So I was very, very happy with our defense,” head coach Norman Black said in the post-game presser.
However, the Bolts got a big scare midway through the payoff period as Rain or Shine answered with a 17-4 blitz, sparked by key buckets from rookies Vince Tolentino and Adrian Wong to cut the deficit to 11, 67-78.
The Painters tried their hardest down the stretch, and actually managed to trim the Bolts’ lead to just 6, 76-82, in the final 50 seconds following two clutch free-throws from Norbert Torres.
As Meralco was forced to burn their last two timeouts due to the smothering Rain or Shine pressure defense, Newsome finally pulled the plug on the Painters’ hopes with two makes from the line for the 84-76 lead with 32 ticks left in regulation.
“We actually played really well in the second half, up until to maybe the last 5 to 6 minutes of the game where things seemed to turn around,” Black added. “But under the circumstances, we’re 5-3. Just happy to get the victory and move on.”
James Yap led the failed comeback effort with 18 points, 15 coming in the first half alone. Beau Belga added 11 points and 7 rebounds, while Javee Mocon struggled with just 5 markers on 2/12 shooting.
Meralco 85 – Newsome 17, Amer 14, Hugnatan 13, Maliksi 9, Hodge 8, Quinto 8, Black 5, Almazan 4, Pinto 1, Jackson 0, Salva 0.
Rain or Shine 78 – Yap 18, Belga 11, Torres 11, Nambatac 8, Borboran 6, Wong 6, Tolentino 6, Mocon 5, Onwubere 3, Norwood 2, Ponferada 2, Rosales 0.
Quarters: 27-28, 48-44, 74-51, 85-78.