Allen Durham and Raymond Almazan dominated Columbian's frontline as the Meralco Bolts scored a wire-to-wire win over the Columbian Dyip 92-74 Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The duo combined for 52 points and 38 rebounds for the Bolts, who rolled to their fourth straight win and improved to 7-2 in the PBA Governors' Cup standings. Almazan pulled down a career-high 24 rebounds to complement his 18 points and two blocks, while Durham 34 markers and 14 caroms.
"Our two big men, from my point of view, dominated the game. Allen did a good job scoring the ball for us in the paint, and Raymond did a good job of controlling the rebounds. That was really the key to the game tonight," coach Norman Black remarked.
Meralco got off to a strong start thanks to some strong defense on Columbian, which only managed six points in the first 10 minutes. Almazan (14 first-half points) and Durham (12) wasted no time going on the offensive and combined for 26 points in the first half to nearly outscore the Dyip by themselves and help the Bolts open up a 45-29 lead at the break.
Black said forcing Columbian to execute in the half-court while cutting down fastbreak opportunities helped Meralco stave off any comeback bid by the Dyip.
"They're a team of runs and whenever they can get out and get on the fastbreak and force turnovers and get out and run, they'e able to get back into the game against you," he observed. "Our goal tonight was to try to make them play half-court offense as much as possible because they're one of the teams in the league that takes a lot of shots per minute. They like to take early shots, they don't really wait long into their shot clock.
"But there were stretches in this game where they were able to force turnovers and get out and run, and those were the stretches when they were able to get back into the game."
Sure enough, the Bolts took no chances on defense and held Columbian to just 29.8 percent from the field, including a paltry 7-for-31 clip on 3s.
It also didn't hurt how Durham's scoring and Almazan's career night eased the load on a night the Bolts missed Baser Amer, who sat out with a groin injury.
"He's been a blessing, there's no question about that," Black said of Almazan. "[H]e's been doing a great job for us manning the paint, manning the middle, and he makes a big difference as far as Allen Durham's game is concerned because he takes a lot of pressure off him inside the paint.
Almazan shot just 6-for-15 and missed a 20-20 game.
"I'm just hoping he'll stop missing all those bunnies 'cause he's missing a lot of layups around the basket," Black said. "I always tell him, 'Take your time, there's nobody there tall enough to block your shot. Just take your time and make your shots.'"
Perez paced Columbian with 21 points, six rebounds and three assists in the loss, which puts Columbian's (4-6) hold of the seventh seed on unsteady ground. Khapri Alston provided 19 points and 16 boards, but no other player scored in double-figures.
Meralco (92) -- Durham 34, Almazan 18, Newsome 10, Quinto 7, Maliksi 7, Caram 4, Salva 3, Hugnatan 3 Hodge 2, Pinto 2, Jamito 2, Faundo 0, Jackson 0, Jose 0.
Columbian (74) -- Perez 21, Alston 19, Tiongson 9, Khobuntin 7, Cahilig 5, McCarthy 4, Reyes 3, Flores 3, Calbo 2, Faundo 1, Corpuz 0, Camson 0.
Quarters: 25-11, 45-29, 67-58, 92-74.
Almazan's previous career-high in rebounding was 17, which incidentally came against coach Black's Meralco in the 2015 Philippine Cup.
Black said Amer's status for the team's game against NorthPort on Sunday is questionable. "He could have played tonight. It's just that the injury is a groin injury, and those injuries are quite tricky. If you move the wrong way sometimes, you could pull it completely. My feeling was we have a lot of battles down the road, so I wanted to just make sure that he would be 100 percent before he allowed him to play again."
Meralco vs. NorthPort on Nov. 10 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Columbian vs. Barangay Ginebra on Nov. 15 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.