#PBA2016 COMMISH CUP SEMIFINALS GAME 4 PREVIEW: MERALCO BOLTS vs ALASKA ACES - PUSHED OUT OR PUSH BACK?

Can Calvin Abueva and the rest of the Aces finally eliminate Cliff Hodge's Bolts?
(image form the PBA/Inquirer)
It’s game 4 of the Commish Cup Finals and ALA is on the verge of barging into their third straight Final appearance. MER, after a very commendable performance in the elims, is now on the edge and is in danger of missing the bus to their first ever franchise Final appearance. Will the Bolts push back against the Aces here to force a game 5, or will Alaska succeed in pushing them out of the picture?

MER and ALA played things tight in the first half of game 3, but the Aces eventually kicked things into high gear in the second half to break the game open. Though key players Sonny Thoss and RJ Jazul both underwhelmed again, that hardly mattered as the Bolts couldn’t get much going either. 

1. MER: NEUTERED NEWSOME
- Rookie sensation Chris Newsome was blanked in game 3, scoring 0 points on 0/7 FG shooting and, worse, turning the ball over 7 times. It was a rude awakening for the former Blue Eagle, who should have a good bounce back game lest the Bolts falter again in game 4.

First 2 games: 13.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0spg, 62.5 FG%
Game 3: 0pts, 7rebs, 3asts, 1stl, 7 TOs, 0/7 FGs


2. MER: BENCH BOMBS OUT
- Four of MER’s starters scored in double digits, but they didn’t get a lot from their reserves, who, as a unit, put up a paltry 20 points. In contrast, ALA’s bench dropped 57 markers. MER shot well from beyond the arc (40%), but they didn’t attack the basket enough, as proven by shooting just 12 free throws (making 6) for the entire game. 

Game 3 stats:
Bench scoring: MER 20, ALA 57
Dillinger - 9pts, 4/12 FGs
Caram - 4pts, 2/5 FGs
Faundo - 2pts, 1/3 FGs
Amer - 0/2 FGs
Bono - 0/2 FGs


3. MER: ELECTROCUTED WITH ERRORS!
MER had trouble keeping in step with ALA mainly because hey kept coughing up the ball. For coach Norman Black’s wards to avoid elimination, they have to check their turnovers, get more production from their bench, and be more aggressive in attacking the hole.

Game 3 turnovers: ALA 15, MER 21
Newsome - 7 TOs
Hodge - 3 TOs

Game 3 Pts off TOs: ALA 26, MER 13

Semis TO stats:
ALA - 15.7 TOpg (16.3 TOpg in elims)
MER - 20.0 TOpg (15.8 TOpg in elims)


4. ALA: BEAST FEASTS ON BOLTS
- Calvin Abueva was pretty much unstoppable and just went out to impose his will on the Bolts. If he continues to dominate, MER might as well kiss their Finals chances good bye.

First 2 games: 16.5ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.5apg, 2.0spg, 44.8 FG%
Game 3: 23pts, 12rebs, 2asts, 2stls, 1blk, 9/18 FGs


5. ALA: BANCHERO IS BUCKETS!
- The triumvirate of Rob Dozier, Calvin Abueva, and Chris Banchero combined for 65 of the team’s 92 points in game 3.  Dozier and Abueva are pretty much expected to produce big numbers, but Banchero’s production gave ALA a huge lift. If the Aces can get another good performance from Banchero, they will have a good shot at finishing off the Bolts.

First 2 games: 9.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.0apg, 61.5 FG%
Game 3: 16pts, 6rebs, 1ast, 1stl, 3/3 3pts, 6/12 FGs


6. ALA: POUNDING THE PAINT
- ALA dominated the inside scoring and, once again, their defense forced MER into numerous errors. As long as ALA has the same intensity and efficiency in game 4, there should be big chance they’ll move on to the Finals.

Game 3 stats:
Inside scoring - ALA 38, MER 24
Dozier - 12pts
Abueva - 12pts
Banchero - 4pts
Menk - 4pts


7. KEY MATCH-UP: ARINZE ONUAKU X ROB DOZIER
- For back to back games, Rob Dozier has dominated in the paint for ALA, which Onuaku has to rise to the occasion and do a better job for MER. Onuaku was one of the toughest imports in the elims, but he has been hampered in the semis by the veteran Dozier, whose defense has been stifling. Onuaku needs to be more dominant for the Bolts to have a strong chance of extending this series, while Dozier all has to do is put up his usual numbers for the Aces to have the inside track.

Onuaku Game 3: 16pts, 12rebs, 3asts, 4blks, 6/9 FGs
Dozier Game 3: 25pts, 14rebs, 1ast, 2blks, 2 triples, 11/16 FGs

Onuaku semis stats: 16.3ppg, 14.7rpg, 3.7apg, 2.0bpg, 70.4 FG%, 9.0 FGA per game
Dozier stats: 20.0ppg, 10.7rpg, 1.3apg, 1.7bpg, 56.8 FG%

Onuaku’s elims stats: 20.5ppg, 18.6rpg, 2.5apg, 1.3bpg, 66.9 FG%, 12.4 FGA per game



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