04 October 2010

Bolts 73, Kings 72

Bolts vs Kings
GMANews.TV, 4 October 2010

Mac-Mac Cardona proved he's up to the task as Meralco's go-to-guy as the newest team began its campaign in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

The unorthodox shooting guard who played college ball for De La Salle hit half of his 12 points in the payoff period, including the go-ahead basket in the Bolts' 73-72 stunner over the Barangay Ginebra Kings in the lone encounter that opened the 2010 Philippine Cup at the jampacked Araneta Coliseum on Sunday (3 October 2010).

Acquired by the rookie franchise from Talk `N Text in a major off-season trade involving three teams, Cardona steered the Bolts back from a 65-70 deficit in the final five minutes to snatch the win that welcomed them big-time to Asia’s first play-for-pay league.

Cardona also had six rebounds and four assists behind the team-high 14 points and 14 rebounds provided by big man Nelbert Omolon.

"Coach Ryan (Gregorio) kept on egging me during the timeout to keep on shooting no matter what happens," Cardona recalled of his mentor's advice during a team huddle in the stretch.

But luck didn't have anything to do with his go-ahead basket, as Cardona had to elude two Ginebra defenders in Eric Menk and Ronald Tubid before releasing a floater that hit the glass first before going in to give the Bolts a one-point cushion with 32.4 seconds left.

The Kings had a chance to regain the lead, but Willie Miller missed an open jumper with 18 seconds left.

The Bolts then threw away two big opportunities to clinch the game after failing to make four straight free throws – two of them by Cardona with 14 seconds to go and another two by Asi Taulava five seconds later.

The Kings, however, failed to capitalize.

Left with no timeouts and with only 2.5 seconds to go, the Kings botched their chance of stealing the game when two-time MVP Miller lost control of the ball on an inbound play.

Miller managed to save the ball from going out of bounds and was able to make a lob pass to Jay Jay Helterbrand, whose last-second attempt came up short.

"The good thing about this team is that we watch each other's backs. We bailed out Mac-Mac when he missed two free throws, and we bailed out Asi when he missed two free throws – all because of defense," Gregorio said.

"There was pressure before the game," he added. "The feeling was pretty much the same when I first coached eight years ago. But I have to caution everyone that one win doesn’t make a conference. Still, it’s so nice to win our first game in the PBA."

Tubid and JC Intal led the Kings with 11 points each, while Miller added 10.

Miller had given the Kings their last taste of the lead, 72-71, at the 2:04 mark before Cardona hit the marginal basket.

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