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PBA: Facing 0-3 deficit, Meralco still waiting for its shots to fall

For Meralco to break out of a slump, it needs to get more scoring help for Allen Durham. PBA Media Bureau

For a team such as Meralco that’s young and looking for some guidance on the biggest stage of Philippine basketball, it’s worth having a veteran voice such as Jared Dillinger and Ranidel de Ocampo, experienced players who can act as an emotional anchor through moments filled with pressure and uncertainty.

Now, if they can only start to make some shots.

Meralco tries to go for its first win of the best-of-7 finals when the Bolts battle Barangay Ginebra in Game 3 of the PBA Governors’ Cup at Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.

Game time is at 7 p.m.

Much has been said about Dillinger and de Ocampo’s impact on a team that’s looking for its first PBA championship, but there hasn’t been much bite to back the bark in these finals so far.

Dillinger has missed 15 of 18 shots in the first two games, totaling a measly 11 points, while continuing to rely heavily on the 3-point shot. 

Of the 142 total field goals he attempted prior to the finals, 106 of those were from downtown, which means he opted to take a triple 3 out of 4 times.

That was OK, though, when Dillinger was shooting nearly 40% from long distance.

In two games these finals, 14 of his 18 field-goal attempts were from behind the arc, but he made only 2 of 14 from that range for a ghastly 14%.

De Ocampo, who has come off the bench, fared slightly better than Dillinger in overall field-goal accuracy (7 of 22, 32%), but his 3-point shot has abandoned him, too.

After shooting at a 32% clip in the first 16 games, he is 1 of 8 from long distance (12%) in these finals.

Also struggling are Cliff Hodge and Chris Newsome, whose field-goal percentages are down in the finals compared to before this series.

“No question, our locals need to step up a little bit to support Allen (Durham) and make their shots. That’s really the problem right now,” Meralco coach Norman Black said.

“Ranidel is not making his shots, JD (Dillinger) is not making his treys and so we’re not getting the spacing that we need around Allen for us to be successful.”

As proven in Game 2, Meralco’s defense and its speed can take Ginebra out of its element in key stretches but, if the Bolts’ effort doesn’t lead to a score, then all the hard work will be worthless.

Consider this:

  • In 8 quarters played so far, Meralco has scored less than 20 points in 5 of those.
  • After averaging 98 points in the first 16 games, Meralco is down to 86 points per 2 finals games.
  • Also in the finals, Meralco is shooting 38% from the field; in the first 16 games, the Bolts shot nearly 45%.

“I’m sure my players are trying their best, giving their best, but they’re not performing right now at a level they performed in the elimination round,” Black said.

Meralco was in it in Game 2 right until midway through the fourth quarter when Justin Brownlee and LA Tenorio asserted themselves.

While Brownlee is expected to carry the scoring load again, and Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter take care of the defensive chores, Tenorio’s health is suddenly an open question mark following Cone’s admission that his starting point guard’s elbow has been bothersome.

If Meralco rediscovers its stroke and the pain in Tenorio’s elbow turns out to be more unbearable than the team is letting, Game 3 will be up for grabs.

“They’re mentally tough and very hard to crack,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said of Meralco. “I think they still have a lot of punches left to throw at us.”

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