|Cliff Hodge returned to action and grabbed nine rebounds, but Coach Norman Black wants more than that. PBA Media Group|
By Ivan Saldajeno
QUEZON CITY--Decided by a Calvin Abueva putback, Phoenix moved on from blowing an early double-digit spread and escaped with a 93-92 win against Meralco in the first overtime game of the new Philippine Basketball Association season at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday night.
[Related Story: Abueva scores game-winner as Phoenix upends Meralco in OT]
But for the Bolts' head coach, Norman Black, it boiled down to grabbing the rebounds all game long.
"We gave up 77 rebounds today, which was way too many, and more importantly, it's the last two plays in the game where offensive rebounds led to scores," Black said.
The other play he pertained to was the Fuel Masters' play prior to Abueva's game-winner, in which Matt Wright recovered the ball midair after Alex Mallari airballed an elbow jumper and scored a reverse layup to give them a 91-89 lead with 20.3 seconds left.
Meralco thought it will bounce back from the said play and finally complete the comeback from what Black thought was "a horrible first quarter" after Chris Newsome buried a triple with 11 seconds to go.
But Abueva came to the rescue after getting the offensive rebound off a Justin Chua miss and putting the ball back in with 4.3 seconds remaining.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win the game, but in the end, it's the rebounding that killed us," Black, whose Meralco side grabbed 54 boards, further rued.
Interestingly enough, the team forced overtime through a Ranidel De Ocampo followup, but while that's a sign that he is back from an injury, Black said it was still not enough.
"It's nice to have them healthy. You give them a chance of winning. But at the same time, they have to do a better job rebounding the ball. They did a horrible job tonight," Black further said.
No Bolt was in double-digits in terms of caroms with Cliff Hodge, another returning player from injury bay, the top rebounder with nine.
"It's the All-Filipino [Conference]. We don't have an import to come in and help in the rebounding. So the locals have to do the rebounding. Like I told them before the game, if we rebound the ball well, we're gonna win this conference. If we don't, we won't. It came true tonight," Black continued.
He then added, "That's something we have to address in practice. That will be the concern going to the game against Blackwater."
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