A winner-take-all second game is very possible.
The 4-5 pairing has traditionally been the most competitive and compelling. And the lower seed winning in this case isn’t necessarily that shocking, mostly because the teams are often evenly matched. That is exactly the case in this quarterfinal showdown between the fourth-seeded Meralco Bolts and the fifth-seeded Magnolia Hotshots.
The Bolts and Hotshots actually finished with identical 7-4 records. And their lone encounter back in the eliminations was decided by just 2 points, which means this pairing has the best chance of seeing a winner-take-all. Whether that will happen likely depends on the answers to these four burning questions:
Can the Hotshots take care of the ball?
For a team with three exceptional playmakers, the Hotshots turn the ball over quite a lot at over 15 a game. They had 18 turnovers in their previous game against the Bolts, and that proved to be the difference in that one-possession loss. The Hotshots can’t keep shooting themselves in the foot, or they will have a very early vacation.
Can the Bolts be electric?
The Bolts can put points on the board, as they did in wins against the Converge FiberXers (132 points) and the Blackwater Bossing (125). But it seems they lose power every once in a while. That was the case in losses to the San Miguel Beermen, when the Bolts scored a measly 86 points, and to the cellar-dwelling Terrafirma Dyip, who held Meralco to just 88 markers. That kind of production won’t cut it at this level.
Will Paul Lee be lethal?
Lee is probably the best player in this matchup, and he will need to make that apparent if Magnolia is to live another day. Lee must take over for the Hotshots and lead the way. Unfortunately, the Angas ng Tondo has been largely up and down in the playoffs these past few conferences. He needs to step up now.
Will Chris Newsome be awesome?
Newsome is to Meralco what Lee is to Magnolia. The high-flying guard is Meralco’s best player by far, and he has been rounding into form after missing practically the entire Commissioner’s Cup. Now is his chance to prove he is all the way back. If he can do it, the Bolts might be semis-bound after just one game.