PBA: 2-0 or 1-1?

November 12, 2018

Game today:

(Mall of Asia Arena)

7p.m. -- Alaska vs. Meralco

The  results:

Game 1 -- Meralco 97, Alaska 92.

SEVEN straight  wins, including six do-or-die games dating back to the eliminations,  should be enough  reason  for  two-time PBA Governors’ Cup  runner-up Meralco to relax a bit.

But don’t  tell that to import Allen Durham.

In fact, Durham even urged his  teammates  to keep their focus and maintain the same intensity that worked perfectly in the past seven games.

“It is kinda nice to relax a little bit now but we don’t want to relax,” said  Durham  after posting a double-double of 32 points  and 14 rebounds in Meralco’s  97-92  win over Alaska Milk  in Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinal series at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

“It’s been working for us to keep the intensity up and keep playing the way we’ve been playing so we’re gonna keep trying to have that mentality that we’ve been having the past few games,” added  Durham before the series shifts to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay for Game 2 at 7 p.m. today.

“Everybody’s peaking at the right time.We’re playing well right now. Hopefully, we just keep going and ride on this streak as long as we can,” added the  30-year-old  Durham, who  won   Best Import  trophy  twice   in 2016 and 2017.

Even  Alaska coach  Alex Compton had all praises for the work done by Durham so far.

“He (Durham) was so awesome  and  he  was so efficient,” said Compton, even citing Durham’s remarkable  13-of-19 shooting  from the floor.

But the 6-6  Durham is  not only Alaska’ biggest problem right now.

Baser Amer, the third-year point guard from Davao,  is  providing  the kind of leadership that Meralco  coach  Norman  Black badly  needs during  crucial moments of the game.

Amer, hailed as the “Second Coming” of former PBA MVP Jimmy Alapag, finished  with 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists in the Bolts’ seventh straight  win that put  them closer to a return to the finals of the season-ending, import-flavored  tournament.

But it was  the  leadership of the 26-year-old  Davao  native that caught  the  attention  even  of long-time PBA fans.

“We’re  trying to  fight everyday,” said  Black, adding the Bolts’ two tough  wins  aganst Phoenix Petroleum in  the quarterfinals  did good for the team.

“And it’s really  good   that Durham takes the lead as a good import, and  his  teammates follow.”

Alaska, which   advanced  to the semis by eliminating top favorite  San  Miguel Beer  also in  the  quarterfinals,  faces   daunting  task in   their bid  to  even   the series with  ace gunner Chris Banchero   having  problems  with his right ankle.

Compton  is  expected to limit  the  playing time of  Banchero, who  had 16  points, four rebounds  and  four  assists  in  the Aces’ losing effort.

Import Mike Harris,  who finished  with  37 points and 18  rebounds, and Vic  Manuel, who added 14 points,  will  have  to take up the scoring load for the  Aces  in  case  of  limited   minutes for Banchero.

“It’s up to  coach Alex  (Compton)  but  I really  hope to play big minutes,” said Banchero, who twisted his ankle after playing 31 minutes.

“It’s  a  huge  game for  us.  We  can’t  afford to go down 2-0 against a team like Meralco. That’s going to be a  big problem.” he added.

“we need to even out the series and I can promise you, we’re going  to come out with  a lot more fire than  we did in that first  half.”