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Bolts starting to find direction, identity after first win

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After the Meralco Bolts have recorded their first win in the PBA Philippine Cup, the team is looking like the one many analysts have pegged to have a big season in the league.

The Bolts dropped game after game and as the losses piled up, people started to wonder if Meralco have what it takes to make better strides in the league.

But the 87-83 win over the Star Hotshots was everything the Bolts were expected to show. They didn’t look like an 0-5 squad entering the game. They were authoritative and they refused to get bullied. Meralco had the bad-boy persona especially in the second half where they turned things around with a more physical, more feisty approach.

Meralco entered the game with the worst net rating at -13.1. They were also the worst defensive team in the league, allowing 109.7 points per 100 possessions.

Against the Hotshots, the Bolts looked like the better team and had more stops. Meralco had 7 more assists, 18-11 and forced 9 more turnovers, 23-14. They also held down the Hotshots to only 39 percent field goal shooting.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Bolts starting to find direction, identity after first win    Head coach Norman Black had challenged his team show more focus after a lopsided loss to Ginebra, and is grateful the team finally showcased its bite on both ends of the floor.

“Today, everybody seemed to have the energy, the focus, they had the drive to get the first victory. Hopefully it leads to more victories in the future,” Black said.

“I’ve been telling we are much better than a 0-5 team. I had questioned their focus during games. If we need to win basketball games, everybody has to be focused and not just three or four guys.”

Black relayed the Bolts went back to the basics after the Ginebra loss, trying to bring back the intensity on the defensive end which merited them one of the better defensive ratings last season.

“Staying low on defense, keeping your hands up, going 24 seconds without making mistakes on defense, that has been the major focus the last couple of days. I told the players we were very committed on defense tonight,” he said.

“I was happy they came out with a fight in their bodies. This team is much better than what we’ve shown so far, and we will continue to build on this. That is our personality last year. Most teams didn’t want to play us because of our physicality. Our defense was much better today.”

Meralco’s leaders Gary David and Jimmy Alapag said the win was a huge confidence-builder, and the Bolts have no other way to go but up after showing what they were truly capable of.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Bolts starting to find direction, identity after first win    “Malaking panalo to dahil bumalik kumpiyansa namin sa sarili at sa buong team. Natanggal yung tinik. Nakakalakad kami ng buo sa Meralco (practice facility). Napakahirap magstart ng 0-5. Pag punta mo sa gym, hindi ka maka (ngiti) sa mga nagtatrabaho doon pero ngayon nakuha namin ang panalo,” David said, adding the Bolts also dedicated time to talk to each other off the court.

“Kukuha muna kami dito ng kumpiyansa. Kahit masama pakinggan yung 1-5. Ang medyo naging maganda doon, nagusap-usap kami mga player, nilabas nila yung nakikita nila kung ano mabibigay nila. Committed kami ngayon as team players.”

Alapag added: “We needed that pretty bad. When you are struggling, either you draw the entire team together or you break apart. We were not the type of team to break apart. It’s a gutsy win for the guys. The guys just made plays for each other and hopefully we can build on this. It’s not easy when you’re struggling and those losses start piling up. But again, we came together as a team more than you break apart.”

The Bolts may not be having a winning record now, but they will only get better. Meralco is just getting started.

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