By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Meralco Bolts finish their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup elimination round assignments this week with an eye on completing their assault on the number two seed in the playoffs and the twice-to-beat incentive that goes with it.
Meralco (7-2) will play back-to-back matches on Wednesday and Thursday, looking to at least win one, if not complete a sweep, to officially claim the second seed in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association tournament.
It will first play the NLEX Road Warriors (5-5) in a match scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Don Honorio Ventura State University (DHVSU) Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga, then it takes on defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (4-6) on Thursday at 2 p.m.
Both matches are expected to be not a walk in the park for the Bolts as both the Road Warriors and the Kings are looking for an all-important victory to give their own playoff push a huge boost.
Meralco has been on a tear of late after missing two weeks of play after it entered the league’s health and safety protocols.
It won back-to-back matches last week to put it in a solid position to contend for a top-two finish in the eliminations.
The last of its victories came at the expense of also-rans Blackwater Bossing, 104-97, on Sept. 18 where they continued to play sans key cogs Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge, who were yet to get clearance to return as per the safety guidelines set by the league.
Allein Maliksi led the steady attack of the Bolts in the win, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Raymond Almazan had a huge double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds while Reynel Hugnatan and Trevis Jackson each had 14 points.
If the Bolts succeed in securing the second seed, they will take the number seventh team after the eliminations in the quarterfinals with a twice-to-beat advantage.
Apart from Meralco, also playing two games in the final week of elimination play are the Alaska Aces (3-6), who need to sweep all of it to put themselves in a firmer position to catch the playoff bus.
The Aces play the San Miguel Beermen (6-4) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. and the Northport Batang Pier (5-5) the following day at 4:35 p.m.
Only three spots in the quarterfinals are left to be filled, with TnT Tropang Giga (10-1), Meralco, Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok (8-3), San Miguel and Rain or Shine Elastopainters (6-5) already in.
LEE IS BEST PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Meanwhile, Magnolia’s Paul Lee nabbed PBA player of the week honors for the period of Sept. 15 to 19.
The veteran guard torched San Miguel for 32 points in a 100-90 win on Sunday, 18 of which coming in the fourth quarter.
The win thrusted Magnolia to an 8-3 record at the end of their elimination assignments, good for solo third place, but still has a chance of notching the second seed if Meralco loses all of its games this week.
Mr. Lee edged TnT rookie Mikey Williams in a close vote for the weekly award handed out by media covering the PBA beat.
Others in the running for the award were Meralco’s Maliksi, Almazan and Bong Quinto, Magnoli’s Ian Sangalang, and veteran NLEX big man JR Quinahan.