A balanced Meralco attack stayed poised in the face of a late NLEX rally for a 101-92 over the Road Warriors in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup Friday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena and Cultural Center.
Chris Newsome led six players in double figures by tallying 18 points, six rebounds and six dimes, while Allein Maliksi added 17 and seven boards for the Bolts, who strung together their first back-to-back win in the conference to improve to 3-2.
Meralco led by as many as 12 in the first half but dealt with a back-and-forth third quarter battle with NLEX before heating up again to erect an 11-point lead, 73-62, just before the third quarter ended.
Kiefer Ravena, who scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, kept his side alive to help the Road Warriors pull to within four, 94-90, to make it a ball game, but Newsome answered with a big turnaround jumper with 2:03 left to give the Bolts a six-point lead they would never relinquish the rest of the way.
Maliksi later buried a big triple with 1:20 left on the clock to essentially put the game out of reach.
Head coach Norman Black made note of Newsome's composed play in the clutch -- a continuation of his heroics from Meralco's overtime win against Magnolia on Tuesday.
"We've done a couple of things with Chris. Like I told you last time when he was Player of The Game, I just told him, 'Don't overthink things. Just enjoy the game, have fun, this is the game that you played when you were a kid. It's still the same game,'" he said.
"But more importantly, we've tried to take some defensive pressure off of Chris Newsome. In other words, we normally assign him to the best offensive player on the other side almost every single night. We've tried to take that away and give it to other players so that he can concentrate more on his offense, and his offense has really been flowing. But more importantly than that, you know, we've just been making sure that the ball is in his hands in the fourth quarter. And he's the guy who's going to deliver for us if we're going to win basketball games."
Meralco handed out 17 dimes against NLEX and forced NLEX to shoot a pedestrian 40.5 percent from the field, including a 29.4 percent mark (10-for-34) from long range.
"We want to really play as a team. We want to share the basketball. I think we went into this game number three in the league in assists. That's something we want to continue to do," head coach Norman Black said of the Bolts, who averaged 22.7 assists in their first four games. "We look at teams like Ginebra and how they play, how they share the basketball and normally they have a lot of success, so we also want to be one of those teams that really played with a lot of teamwork, and we did that again tonight.
"But I was more impressed with our defense. This is one of the few games this conference where our defense really stood out. And the guys really followed the game plan and executed the game plan."
Raymond Almazan added 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench, while Baser Amer also threw in 11 in a start.
Anthony Semerad contributed 16 and eight boards, while Kevin Alas wound up with 10 and five dimes for NLEX, which dropped to 1-4 in the standings.
Meralco (101) -- Newsome 18, Maliksi 17, Amer 11, Almazan 11, Hodge 10, Black 9, Quinto 9, Jamito 7, Hugnatan 6, Jackson 3, Faundo 0, Jose 0, Caram 0.
NLEX (92) -- Ravena 30, Semerad 16, Alas 10, Cruz 9, Porter 8, Ayonayon 7, Soyud 6, Quinahan 6, Miranda 0, Varilla 0, Ighalo 0.
Quarters: 25-17, 41-39, 73-65, 101-92
Today is the 30th anniversary of Black being the first (and only) import to breach the 10,000-point mark. He scored 11,329 in his entire PBA career. "I just wanted to be known for being productive and being for being a winner. And I'm very proud of that accomplishment," he said. "I hope one day, some import comes along and breaks that record. You never know what may happen. It could be Allen Durham, it could be Justin Brownlee, you never know. Those guys might do it."
Meralco shot 64.7 percent (44 points) inside the paint against NLEX's thin frontline.
NLEX vs. Phoenix on Monday, Oct. 26, at 4 p.m.
Meralco vs. San Miguel on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 6:45 p.m.