Meralco and TNT KaTropa dispute the last semis slot in the do-or-die Game 3 of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum today.
Game time is at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to the best-of-five semifinal series against top seed Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
The Bolts forced a rubber match following a 103-100 win in overtime in Game 2 last Wednesday to tie their best-of-three series. KaTropa took Game 1, 102-84.
Meralco head coach Norman Black expects Game 3 to be a war.
“I expect Friday game to be a dogfight, so we have to get another effort like this (in Game 2) if we want to get into the semifinals,” said Black, who praised playmaker Baser Amer and power forward Kelly Nabong for stepping up in Game 2.
“We have to find ways to slow them down offensively. I expect my guys to fight again on Friday. But the other side is talented and they can bounce back, so we have to be ready,” he added.
Amer delivered a career-high 32 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Nabong stepped up in the absence of import Alex Stepheson in overtime by hitting seven of his 15 points in extra inning.
Stepheson, who only had seven points and 13 rebounds, fouled out late in the fourth period.
TNT is expected to come back stronger as the team of head coach of Nash Racela has veteran players who have been in this situation before.
Leading KaTropa are Jayson Castro and import Joshua Smith, who had below par performances in Game 2.
Castro had a paltry 12-point output on 2-of-13 shooting while Smith tallied 18 points and 18 rebounds but was a nonfactor in overtime.
Veteran forward Ranidel de Ocampo, who missed Game 2 due to an injury, is expected to be back in Game 3 for TNT.