BY JONAS TERRADO
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Meralco vs TNT KaTropa
(TNT leads series 1-0)
Stopping Allen Durham has become the battlecry of TNT KaTropa as it plots its defensive strategy to somehow slow down the explosive Meralco import.
TNT drew first blood in their series opener last Sunday, 103-94, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, but coach Bong Ravena was quick to point out how difficult of a task it is to defend Durham, who was named Best Import in 2016 and 2017.
“If we can stop stop Durham, much easier siguro. Mas makakatulong sa amin,” said Ravena.
Durham produced stellar numbers with 32 points and 21 rebounds, well-beyond his conference averages of 29.7 points and 15.2 rebounds.
But Durham had little support from the locals, with Allein Maliksi and Chris Newsome as the only other players in double figures.
Maliksi scored 15 but almost half of his points came in the fourth when Meralco was attempting to cut down a 22-point deficit.
Newsome made 14, but 12 of which was produced in the first quarter before becoming non-existent on the offensive side.
The Bolts’ main performers were also anemic, with Raymond Almazan only getting two points and seven rebounds and point guard Baser Amer posting nine points but had no assists.
Durham feels the long layoff had a lot to do with Meralco’s defeat.
“I just think it’s about rust and stuff. All we got to do on offense is go out there with more rhythm. I think we’re passing the ball, and the ball would stick. And then we pass the ball, and then the ball would stick,” Durham said.
“Everybody’s gotta be on a better rhythm and then we could play better,” he added.
Meralco coach Norman Black echoed the need to play with better ball movement as they try to level the series Tuesday night at the Big Dome.
“We have to understand that if you want to win at this level, if you want to win against a team like TNT, you at least have to play as a team,” said Black. “You’re not going to be able to get it done individually.”
TNT got the needed contributions from import KJ McDaniels, Jayson Castro and Roger Pogoy, who combined for 28 of the 30 points that led to the pullaway.
Pogoy played as if he was healthy free after a back injury in the quarterfinal win over Magnolia left him out of the national team lineup in the recent 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The third-year forward admitted that he has yet to fully heal from his injury.
“Pag nasa court ka na kasi wala ka nang nararamdaman,” he said before being asked of how the one-day rest will help.
“Yun ang mahirap. Baka bukas sasakit kasi (sa Game 1) nadala lang sa adrenaline pero lahat naman gagawin ko para maka-recover,” added Pogoy.