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Barangay Ginebra and Meralco break off their tie at third place as they fight to stay in the race for the Top Two in what could be a Sunday thriller of an encounter in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Forget Mark Caguioa and Kerby Raymundo still being doubtful starters for Ginebra.
Minus the two, the Kings roared on Wednesday, pulling off a fifth straight victory with a 90-84 thumping of the Air21 Express.
The Ginebra-Meralco match has become a virtual playoff match as the Bolts caught up with the Kings two nights later on their 102-92 drubbing of the Petron Blaze Boosters.
The Kings and the Bolts play at 6:30 p.m. with the winner keeping a slim chance of clinching a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
“Malabo pa rin yung dalawa (Caguioa and Raymundo) but I’m sure we’ll be coming out fighting,” said Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua.
“We are playing the hottest team in the league. It is an amazing streak considering that Caguioa is not even playing,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.
“We acknowledge the fact that stopping a rampaging Ginebra team is no easy feat, but definitely workable,” Gregorio added. “(LA) Tenorio is running the show, so he must be shackled while Vernon Macklin’s dominance in the shaded lane must be addressed.”
Both teams are on a streak with the Bolts winning their last two games versus the Globalport Batang Pier and the Boosters.
Eric Dawson erupted for a nine-year league-high of 57 points in a megavolt performance powering Meralco past Petron Blaze and into joint third place with the Ginebra Kings and the Boosters at 6-5.
Dawson was a tremendous source of power and energy for the Bolts Friday, bulldozing his way to 20 field-goal conversions and 17 charities in the most productive showing by any player in the league since Derek Brown put in the same output in a game with Sta. Lucia Realty in 2004.
“I’m always inspired while on the court. Our intensity was the big difference in the game,” said Dawson after a career-high game, priming himself up for his anticipated battle with Macklin.
The question is how will Meralco come out with just a day preparation for Ginebra.
“One-day preparation after our Friday game is a challenge since Ginebra is coming off a rest. While our victory against Petron generated an enormous confidence boost, tremendous effort must be rendered if we want to follow it up with a victory against the Gin Kings,” said Gregorio.
“Obvious that our offense has been in sync the past two games. We’ve hit the 100-point mark in those games. But against Ginebra, defense will be the key,” Gregorio added.
The Kings topped the Bolts, 84-81, in their previous tiff on March 22. (SB)
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