PBA: Meralco believes it has the strength to compete head-to-head with SMB

Jun 3, 2024

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Though many may disagree, Meralco thinks it has everything it needs to compete against San Miguel in the PBA 48th Season Philippine Cup finals.

But there is reason for the Bolts’ confidence. Ultimately, it is the sole side that defeated the Beermen, 95-92, in the elimination round of their May 4 away game in Batangas City.

However, head coach Luigi Trillo stated that since the elimination round is so different from the finals; he is not really placing too much weight on that outcome.

Nenad Vucinic, an active consultant for Meralco, expressed a similar opinion, despite the fact that defeating Barangay Ginebra gave them more confidence going into the championship series against the reigning winners.

Seven more games?

Meralco used teamwork to defeat Ginebra in the series. Chris Banchero (24 points) and Brandon Bates (13 rebounds, 6 blocks) gave the team a tremendous boost, especially in Game 7. The latter two will be crucial for Meralco in their faceoff against San Miguel because they bring depth, hustle, and energy to the game. Chris Newsome and Allein Maliksi also contributed as usual to the team.

The active consultant clarified that Meralco needs to make the series go the entire duration, much like their quarterfinal matchup with the Gin Kings, in order to have a shot.

But keep in mind that San Miguel barely had to exert much effort to defeat Rain or Shine, 4-0, in their final game on May 24, while the Bolts had to endure a series that lasted all of seven games. That implies that entering the championship round, the Beermen will have just returned from a 12-day hiatus.

It is unclear if San Miguel will be fatigued come series’ start, but Meralco has a remote chance of pulling off an upset because it just finished a demanding semifinal and is therefore primed and ready.

Meralco’s attitude, however, is not joyous only because it advanced to the championship round.

Although, the Bolts made it to their first-ever Philippine Cup title berth and their first-ever PBA finals participation in four years, thanks in large part to active consultant Nenad Vucinic, according to Meralco coach Luigi Trillo

According to Trillo, Nenad is the ship’s captain.
Trillo outlined the precise ways in which Vucinic has had an impact in an interview with reporters.

In 2022, Vucinic joined the coaching staff of Tab Baldwin and then Chot Reyes at Gilas Pilipinas, serving as a consultant for Meralco. He even took on the role of interim coach for the national team before resigning.

When Trillo was named head coach of the Bolts in 2023, the Serbian-New Zealander assumed the position of active consultant.

Nenad says, “It’s all about total team effort.”

However, Vucinic refused to claim sole credit for the Bolts’ recent success, stating that the coaches’ combined efforts were necessary to get Meralco this far.

Vucinic further expressed his gratitude to the players for their response to the staff’s coaching during the conference.

That being said, Vucinic is happy that after playing Ginebra in a second seven-game playoff series, the entire team was also able to disprove the naysayers.

Nevertheless Vucinic emphasized that the Bolts’ season is far from over, saying they have what it takes to, at the very least, force a hard-fought finals matchup with San Miguel.

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