Playing minus its heart and soul and a new import who just got integrated into the system, Meralco found the resolve to stay alive as it caught a big fish in Bay Area, 92-89, in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts continued to miss the services of injured Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge, but they found a new hero in import KJ McDaniels, who presided the attack in the crucial stretch.
McDaniels, who is in his third tour of duty, picked up where he left off, firing 31 points, including 13 in the fourth period, as the Bolts survived early penalty situation.
The Bolts were under the foul limit with still more than eight minutes left, but they continued to hang on and find ways to stop the rampaging Dragons and deal their second loss in eight games.
McDaniels, who led TNT and NLEX to playoff appearances in his first two appearances in the league, was on a mission to change the fortunes of the slumping Bolts, who picked up their second win in seven games and kept their flickering playoff hopes alive.
McDaniels, who normally plays in the season-ending Governors’ Cup, had no problems going up against a bigger counterpart in Andrew Nicholson as he also pulled down eight rebounds on top of three steals and two blocks.
It was a tough loss for Bay Area, which drew monster numbers from Nicholson, who came away with a season-high 50 points while also grabbing 12 boards, dishing out three assists and making 17-of-18 shots from the free throw area.
Nicholson also had 20 points in the third period, and 33 points bridging two quarters.
“With KJ coming in, he just gave us a breath of fresh air,” Meralco coach Norman Black said.
“It would at least give us a chance to win. But one thing I’m happy about tonight, which I haven’t been happy the entire conference, we played good defense tonight. It’s something we haven’t been doing the entire conference.”
While Nicholson did get away with 50, the other notable scorers were silenced by the Bolts defenders.