Nards Pinto sure knows how to heed the call.
Reminded by one of his seniors to become more aggressive on offense, the 5-foot-11 guard did exactly that. He helped Meralco emerge victorious in an all-important battle with Magnolia in the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
The 30-year-old submitted a career-high 24 points, playing a huge role in the Bolts’ 102-98 win in Game Five, Wednesday.
“Lagi ko kinakausap si Nards,” shared veteran gunner Allein Maliksi moments after the win at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
“Sabi ko, ‘Nards, kailangan mo maging aggressive.’ Kasi, naka stay home sa’kin [‘yung depensa ng Magnolia] and hindi pwedeng si New [Chris Newsome] or si Bong [Quinto] lang ‘yung magke-create for others eh.
“Kailangan, mag-step up ka this game kasi ano na namin ‘to eh… Do-or-die na eh,” the 10-year pro furthered.
Pinto’s production was badly needed, especially following his outing in Game Four last Sunday, where Meralco lost and fell behind 1-3 in the series.
After scoring 16 in Game Three while bravely taking on the challenge of guarding Hotshots star Paul Lee, the Arellano University product was only able to collect six points on 2-of-9 shooting in 36 minutes.
But then, he more than made up for that in their win-or-go-home affair. Pinto shot 9-of-17 from the field, including three from deep.
He had the second-most treys for Meralco next to Maliksi, who nailed a career-high-tying seven en route to a playoff personal-best 29 points — his last one that gave them a 99-93 lead with 1:21 left actually came from a Pinto assist.
“I thought Allein did a great job of hitting his outside shots and opening up their defense, and Nards did the same thing,” lauded coach Norman Black.
Aside from scoring, Pinto also provided five assists, two rebounds, and a steal against just one turnover in nearly 39 minutes.
Maliksi couldn’t feel more proud of the former second-round pick by GlobalPort, who is now averaging 12.8 points in the semis.
“Proud ako kay Nards na ganda ng nilaro niya today.”