Mark Macapagal picked the right night to step up for the slumping Meralco squad.
The seldom-used forward came unchained and propelled the Bolts to a 97-82 beatdown of NLEX, gaining a 1-0 headstart in their best-of-three quarterfinals series in the 2015 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Macapagal went 5-of-10 from threes and wound up with personal two-season-best 22 points, helping Meralco end a three-game losing skid dating back to the elims, the Bolts’ longest this season.
“It makes life a lot easier when you can make outside shots, and Mark Macapagal stepped in today and knocked down a lot of perimeter shots for us and really opened it up for the big guys inside,” said Bolts head coach Norman Black.
The four-time Three Point Shootout champ only played a total of 24 minutes in his seven games this conference and only had a combined four points to his name before going bonkers from the field in Game 1 of this quarterfinals duel. Macapagal’s emergence was a welcome sign for Black, given that Jared Dillinger fell to an injury on his left knee after a collision with NLEX reinforcement Al Thornton at the 3:10 mark of the first quarter and never returned.
Black was frank with the media after the game as he relayed the condition of Dillinger for their next game.
“It doesn’t look good,” he said. “From what the trainer told me, it might be something which might keep him out of the conference. I would think that he will not be able to play on Sunday.”
Game 2 of the series is slated Sunday also at the Big Dome with Meralco eyeing what will only be a third semifinal appearance in franchise history and only the second in a Final Four.
Still, it was a much better performance from his wards. After a scorching 5-0 start to the Commissioner’s Cup, the Bolts seemingly hit a wall and lost five of its next six games.
“It was a much better effort from us tonight especially as far as our teamwork is concerned. We haven’t been playing well as a team offensively and tonight, we did a much better job sharing the ball and I think that made the big difference today,” said Black.
Josh Davis scattered 16 points and 21 rebounds in the victory, while Sean Anthony got 14 markers and seven boards.
Also helping record the rout were Gary David, who had 13 points, Mike Cortez and Reynel Hugnatan, who added 10 markers apiece.
“Our defense, even though we’re in a losing streak, isn’t that bad. But it’s really been our offense that has really let us down. I thought our ability to go inside before going outside really made the difference for us in this game,” Black said, as Meralco outscored NLEX, 46-18, in the paint.
Cliff Hodge returned to the Bolts bench after sitting out their game against Blackwater to rest an ankle injury.
“It’s also nice to have Cliff Hodge back because we’re not that deep of a team and we can’t afford to lose key players and still function at the same level. It will be a challenge to move into Game 2 considering JD won’t be playing,” Black added. “Hopefully, we can build on this. We’ve been talking about getting our assists up and moving the basketball for quite a bit now. Fortunately for us, we picked Game 1 to play one of our best games.”
Al Thornton paced the Road Warriors with 23 points and 11 boards in the game, where NLEX struggled to get itself going after battling back from double-digit deficits all game long.
Mac Cardona also chipped in 17 markers and six rebounds while Jonas Villanueva added 13 for the Road Warriors in the game where Asi Taulava was limited to just five points and six rebounds in 32 minutes of play. (RL)
MERALCO 97 – Macapagal 22, Davis 16, Anthony 14, David 13, Cortez 10, Hugnatan 10, Hodge 7, Reyes 2, Ildefonso 2, Wilson 1, Caram 0, Dillinger 0, Ferriols 0.
NLEX 82 – Thornton 23, Cardona 17, J. Villanueva 13, Canaleta 8, E. Villanueva 6, Taulava 5, Ramos 4, Raymundo 2, Lingganay 2, Baloria 2, Borboran 0, Apinan 0, H. Arboleda 0.
Quarterscores: 34-19, 47-36, 69-61, 97-82.
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