Meralco may have reached the semifinals of the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup, but coach Norman Black’s sleepless nights have just begun.
For one, the Bolts’ biggest weapon all conference long — import Arinze Onuaku — has been slowed down by the double and triple-teaming defense thrown at him.
The Bolts were fortunate to escape with a 104-97 win over sister team NLEX Road Warriors on Monday to advance to the Final Four for the 2nd straight season in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Veteran forward Reynel Hugnatan came off the bench to contribute 20 points and 7 rebounds, while mainstays Cliff Hodge and Jared Dillinger came through with 19 and 18, respectively to drop the ax against NLEX.
“It was a hard-fought game. We had a very difficult time with their (Road Warriors) post defense again and we had a hard time to get Arinze around the basket,” admitted Black after the game.
The wide-bodied Onuaku had a quiet double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds as he struggled to play against NLEX’s double and triple-teaming defense.
Black explained that throughout this conference, he has been teaching the former Syracue Orangeman how to quickly react to double and triple-teaming defense by kicking out to perimeter gunners like Dillinger, veteran guard Jimmy Alapag or rookies Baser Amer and Chris Newsome.
“We talk about it (reacting to double-team) all the time because speaking as a former PBA import, you see me get double or triple teamed every time I touch the ball,” said the 11-time PBA champion coach.
“And I’m trying to teach him, because I don’t think he’s really used to being double-teamed the way he’s being double-teamed here,” added Black.
The 58-year-old Black understands that the path to a 1st-ever Finals stint in franchise history won’t easy come the semis where the Bolts will either face defending champion Tropang TNT or Alaska, runner-up for 3 of the last 4 conferences.
“Once he gets that balance of being able to hold the ball and find an open teammate, to go along with being able to attack the double team since he’s aware of where it’s coming from, then we would probably have a lot of success this conference,” said Black. – By Richard Dy
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