MERALCO coach Norman Black admits he relishes much the Bolts’ return to the finals of the very same conference they failed to win last season. At the same time, Black feels wary of the daunting task ahead.
For Black, the Bolts will have to do much more than simply defend against a Barangay Ginebra side which he describes as ‘efficient’ on both ends of the court.
“I’m happy that Meralco is back in the finals,” Black told People’s Journal in a text message yesterday, stressing that making the finals was one of their goals right from the start of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
But Black is not hiding the fact that his Bolts are facing a tall order playing the defending champions Gin Kings in the best-of-7 final series that gets underway today at 7 p.m. at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
“It will be tough for us because Ginebra is very efficient on both ends of the court,” admitted Black.
Just like its sister team Talk ‘N Text, Meralco faces the same match-up problem versus Ginebra, which boasts of at least four big men whom coach Tim Cone has been frequently using all along.
“Our ability to match up with their size and control our defensive rebounds will be a big key for our success,” said Black.
There’s no doubt that the Bolts’ size pales in comparison to that of the Gin Kings who have Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter, Joe Devance and import Justin Brownlee to man their frontline.
Meralco, on the other hand, has no tall player to defend against Ginebra’s biggies — something that becomes critical since the Meralco management has no plan to use Kelly Nabong, the only player in the team who has the height and heft.
Nabong has been suspended after an altercation with assistant coach Jimmy Alapag.
Cone, meanwhile, said his Gin Kings will have to deal with the Bolts’ quickness if they are to beat them. At the same time, he considers Meralco’s Allen Durham a huge problem already.
“They have size, length and quickness. It’s gonna be hard to dictate matchups with them (Bolts). Mr. Durham right there changes things,” said Cone.
“After losing to SMB in the All-Filipino, we’re very hungry to win this championship. It’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna be rough,” added Cone.
The Bolts have started their finals preparations the day after they completed a 3-game sweep of the Star Hotshots in the semifinals.
“Now the focus is on winning Game One of the series, and hopefully winning the series,” said Black. “The most important thing is for us to be healthy and in great condition.”