On the lookout for a needed floor spacer, Meralco coach Norman Black got his wish granted by veteran wingman Jared Dillinger.
The 6-foot-3 Dillinger made Alaska pay dearly for its repeated defensive gamble on Meralco import Arinze Onuaku on Wednesday night, nailing one booming triple after another, as the Bolts wiped out a 14-point deficit and pulled off a 92-87 victory over the Aces, tying their best-of-five PBA Commissioners Cup semifinals series at one game-apiece.
Dillinger, 32, racked up 13 of his personal conference-high of 20 points in the fourth canto where he drained three of his five triples, the last two of them in successive possessions that allowed Meralco to complete its fightback from a 63-77 deficit early in the fourth and gain control for good at 88-84 inside the final two minutes of play.
With the Aces’ vaunted defense focused more on slowing down the 6-foot-9 Onuaku, Dillinger admitted he and the rest of his Bolts teammates need to do their job in terms of hitting and making shots from the outside.
“We just have to be ready to shoot,” Dillinger told sports scribes after emerging from their dugout at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. “We can’t be too hesitant out there because Arinze is drawing so much of the defense.”
Black, 58, was visibly pleased with Dillinger’s clutch baskets.
“I have to give a lot of credit to JD for really opening up the defense by hitting those outside shots,” he said.
“That’s what we needed. We really have to hit some outside shots to be able to space out a little bit better and open the floor. Otherwise, the defense will just collapse and stick in the lane area. Until we hit some outside shots, they’re gonna continue to play the same defense. For us to be able to have a chance in this series, we have to continue to do that.” Black pointed out.
Game 3 is set on Friday also at the Big Dome and Dillinger is convinced the Bolts will continue to have a better chance against the Aces if they can keep their outside shooting going and protecting the leather.
“We knew from the beginning its going to be a tough series. They are double-teaming, triple-teaming Arinze. So its gonna come down to us hitting shots,” he said. “Luckily in this game we didn’t have that many turnovers (18). We were down all game. But we got the breaks at the end and end up winning. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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