Elite topple No. 1 Bolts in thriller, force decider for semis spot
Allein Maliksi continued to prove why Blackwater made a good move in trading for him late in the season.
Maliksi came up clutch as the Elite took down the top-seeded Meralco Bolts, 92-91, Wednesday to pave way for a do-or-die for a slot in the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals at Mall of Asia Arena.
“Going into the final 15 seconds of the game with Meralco up by one, the instruction was to have a good shot and if there was opening, we take it,” Blackwater head coach Leo Isaac recalled.
“We challenged the players to face the situation. We wanted the ball to Walker but there was also an option for Maliksi,” Isaac said.
The ball did go into the hands of Walker, who then setup Maliksi for game-winning jumper from the free throw line with 9.5 seconds left.
Walker and Maliksi carried the Elite down the stretch but it took team effort in the waning seconds to pull off the defensive stop on the Bolts, whose last shot was a one-hander from just inside the 3-point line by Mike Tolomia that was off target.
“We played good defense and made the stop,” Isaac said.
The dramatic win was Blackwater’s first in the playoffs since joining the league in 2014 and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the Elite facing the formidable Bolts, who won nine games against only two losses in the elimination round.
Walker only had 11 points in the first three quarters before taking over when it mattered most. He exploded for 19 points in the fourth quarter, scoring Blackwater’s first 18 points in the period.
The former NBA veteran, who had stints with the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Miami Heat, scattered 30 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, one steal and a block.
The 30-year-old Maliksi, who was acquired from Star in a four-player trade on Sept. 10, wound up with 15 points and four rebounds. Starting guard Mike DiGregorio added 20 points.
Reigning Best Import Allen Durham posted 18 points, including an inside basket that gave the Bolts a 91-90 edge with 15.8 ticks remaining, 21 rebounds and seven assists while Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge had 19 and 18 points, respectively.
Blackwater tries to become only the fourth team to knock off the No. 1 team on Thursday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
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