|Allein Maliksi set up a playoff career-high to keep the Bolts alive. PBA Images|
MANILA--The Meralco Bolts outdueled the Finals-seeking Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots with a 102-98 squeaker on Wednesday to stay alive in the PBA Philippine Cup semis at Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Allein Maliksi top-scored for the Bolts with a playoff career-high 29 points, converting 7 of his 8 three-point attempts, which tied a career-high. He provided two crucial treys down the stretch which kept the Hotshots at bay as Meralco cuts the series deficit to 2-3 in this best-of-seven affair.
John Pinto sustained his fine showing in the series, finishing with a career-high 24 markers to go with five assists, while Chris Newsome chipped in 23 to lead Meralco’s backcourt.
Mark Barroca had 25 points to lead all Magnolia scorers while Calvin Abueva displayed an all-around performance with 19 points, eight rebounds, and six dimes in a losing effort.
Magnolia look poised to book the first Philippine Cup Finals seat as they raced to an early 30-19 lead with under 2 minutes to go in the first frame.
However, the Bolts refused to let go as they countered with an 8-0 scoring blast behind Newsome’s playmaking and Pinto’s hot shooting to stay close before halftime.
Things were not looking good for the Bolts to begin the final period when Chris Newsome fouled out with under eight minutes remaining, as they trailed by as much as six, 79-85.
It was when Maliksi started to fire up, exchanging buckets with the Hotshots’ duo of Abueva and Barroca to stay in the game. Big man Raymund Almazan joined the frame, providing much-needed putbacks and free throws in the clutch to give Meralco a comfortable lead in the dying seconds.
Meralco will once again try to score another victory on Friday to force a deciding Game 7 at the same venue.
With a report from Justin De Jesus
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