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2016 PBA Comm’s Cup QF – Meralco vs. NLEX : Survival Kit

#2 Meralco Bolts (8-3) vs #7 NLEX Road Warriors (5-6)

Elimination round meeting: NLEX def. Meralco, 104-99.

Coming off a disappointing 1-10 Philippine Cup, the Meralco Bolts surged in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup to claim one of the two twice-to-beat incentives entering the quarter-finals.

The Bolts started the conference winning five straight games, holding the top spot for almost the entire elimination round before losing it at the last moment to San Miguel. Still, the Bolts have shown what a group with tools to compete against any team in the league can do when they are given more time together.

Meralco is the second-best defensive team in the league and fourth-best in net rating. The team also ranks in the upper echelon of the league when it comes to field goal percentage and assists.

The NLEX Road Warriors, meanwhile, are in a precarious situation this time. The team, which finished fourth seed in last season’s Commissioner’s Cup, managed to secure only the seventh seed in this year’s mid-season conference.

The Road Warriors brought back prolific-scoring import Al Thornton, and he has carried the load for the team all-conference long with averages of 35.9 PPG on over 51 percent shooting and 12 RPG. Thornton will enter the play-offs at full-strength which is a big boost for the Road Warriors, but he will need the support of the rest of the squad.

Although NLEX has many capable regular rotation players on paper, the team is often criticized for failing to translate the potential into actual results. This series is a good barometer for them to finally show what they are truly capable of achieving if they play well as a whole.

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The case for Meralco


The presence of Arinze Onuaku (20.5 PPG, 18.6 RPG) gives Meralco not only a post-up or back-to-basket big on offense, but also a legitimate interior defender on the other end. His presence has also helped the Bolts become better defensively, as perimeter players like Cliff Hodge and Chris Newsome can focus on playing their natural positions. The departure of Gary David opens up opportunities for players like Baser Amer, Jimmy Alapag, Jared Dillinger, and even Ryan and Ronjay Buenafe to shoulder the backcourt scoring load. Meralco had been a better team when David is not on the floor.

The case for NLEX


The Road Warriors are slowly finding cohesion. In the loss to Alaska, particularly, the team reversed the ball well and let everyone get touches. NLEX has many options to go to on offense, and it is just a matter of getting everyone involved. Thornton is healthy. Their shooters have been finding rhythm as of late. If that version shows up and they finally live up to their potential, then they might just be able to give the Bolts a good challenge.

Key players


Meralco: Chris Newsome (12.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.8 APG)Chris-Newsome 2016 PBA Comm’s Cup QF – Meralco vs. NLEX : Survival Kit Bandwagon Wire Basketball PBA  - philippine sports news

The fourth overall pick of this year’s draft averaged 16.3 PPG, 7 RPG, and 4.7 APG in his last three games for the Bolts. His aggressiveness and versatility will be needed in this series especially if Norman Black decides to mix it up on offense. Newsome can do a plethora of things on the floor which might give trouble for NLEX’s defense.

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NLEX: Asi Taulava (11.7 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.4 APG)Asi-Taulava 2016 PBA Comm’s Cup QF – Meralco vs. NLEX : Survival Kit Bandwagon Wire Basketball PBA  - philippine sports news

It’s amazing how Taulava remains relevant in a league whose frontcourt spots are dominated by June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter. In this series, Taulava must not only negate the presence of Onuaku, but also try to use his presence to draw the attention of Meralco’s defense and then create for his other teammates.



Meralco: Cliff HodgeCliff-Hodge 2016 PBA Comm’s Cup QF – Meralco vs. NLEX : Survival Kit Bandwagon Wire Basketball PBA  - philippine sports news

Cliff Hodge will most likely defend Al Thornton for a few stretches in this series, and it is his primary job to contain the NLEX reinforcement and try to force him to difficult shots. Hodge also has to move well without the ball and crash the boards to have an impactful showing for Meralco.

NLEX: Three-point shootersKevin-Alas 2016 PBA Comm’s Cup QF – Meralco vs. NLEX : Survival Kit Bandwagon Wire Basketball PBA  - philippine sports news

NLEX is the fifth-best three-point shooting team in the league. Players like Kevin Alas, Garvo Lanete, and Simon Enciso should all be accurate from three-point area in this series to help the Road Warriors stretch the floor and give the Bolts different looks.



Meralco in 1. They’re a topnotch defensive team with an abundance of options on offense as well. The Bolts might be tested if the Road Warriors play close to ideal, but it should not be a major problem.

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