IT has never been this hard for Meralco in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Bolts, who had an easy time making the playoff round in the last two editions of the season-ending conference, try to cap their elimination campaign on a bright note for a possible playoff crack at the last quarterfinals berth.
The Bolts have won their last three outings, beating NLEX, 108-105, on Oct 14, Magnolia, 94-88, on Oct 19 and Rain or Shine, 91-82, last Oct. 21 in a spectacular stint this October.
The three-win streak kept the Bolts in contention for the eighth and last quarterfinal berth at 4-6 in a tie with sister team KaTropa.
They need to win in the penultimate playdate today to bolster their chances.
The Bolts, alas, have daunting task to overcome today, taking on San Miguel Beer that’s not only riding on a four-game winning streak, but is also massing up its strength following the return of June Mar Fajardo after recovering from stress fracture.
At 6-4, the Beermen have gained passage to the next round, and that they need this one to prime themselves up for the playoff round while looking to integrate the returning Fajardo to the system.
In his first outing with the Beermen last week, Fajardo scored just two points, grabbed two rebounds and issued one assist in what looked like a mere ‘break-in’ inside 10 minutes.
The four-time most valuable player is expected to play longer minutes in preparation for the playoff round – a situation the Bolts have to deal with in their bid to salvage this one.
“It’s a big challenge going up against the Beermen especially with June Mar back,” said coach Norman Black, whose Bolts advanced to the finals of the same conference during the 2016 and 2017 editions.
“To beat them (Beermen) you must bring you’re A game,” added Black. “It’s a knockout game for us so will go and give our all.”
The Bolts meet the Beermen in the 6:45 p.m. main offering of another Petron Blaze Saturday Special at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, with NLEX and Rain or Shine colliding in the curtain raiser at 4:30 p.m.
Aside from Fajardo, the Bolts also have to contend with Kevin Murphy and the rest of able SMB locals who are expected to come out strong and go hard in the game to sustain their momentum going into the playoffs.
If they win, the Beermen may finish either fifth or sixth after the elimination.
The Bolts, on the other hand, will go 5-6 at the end of the elims if they win. They target a joint seventh finish with the NLEX Road Warriors or a joint eighth with the TNT KaTropa Texters.
A big possibility is a playoff between Meralco and TNT KaTropa for the eighth and last spot in the quarterfinals.
The Bolts will avoid complication and gain outright entry next round if they beat San Miguel while TNT drops its game against Barangay Ginebra at the close of the elimination on Sunday.
But the Texters can also make an automatic quarters passage should Meralco lose to SMB then TNT prevail over Ginebra.