Allen Durham is determined to end last year’s unfinished business.
The Meralco import has been carrying the Bolts on his shoulders in the 2017 Oppo PBA Governors’ Cup Finals, in the hopes of bagging the championship that they failed to get last season.
Over the last four games, the back-to-back Best Import awardee averaged monster numbers of 29.5 points, 18.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.0 blocks.
Barangay Ginebra surged to a two-to-nothing start to the best-of-seven series, but the Bolts managed to avert disaster by winning two straight games. What spelled the difference was the support that the local players provided.
“We knew we needed everybody to step up and play well and contribute for us to win this basketball game. I think that’s what happened today. And even with that, it was still a struggle. It’s still difficult to beat the Ginebra team. So I’m sure it’s gonna be difficult going forward but it feels a lot better being 2-2 than 3-1,” Meralco coach Norman Black said after Game 4.
Chris Newsome and Baser Amer bounced back from their off games as they both finished in double figures. And after sparking his team in Game 3, Reynel Hugnatan showed his vintage form once more and churned out another stellar outing.
“Fortunately, tonight, our guys were hitting shots and we had a lot of help. I had a lot of help,” Durham said. “It’s a lot easier to get to the basket, to get to the rim. (Ginebra’s) such a big team, you know, so they got to pick their poison. They have to help under the basket or we stretch them out. Just fortunate that we’re hitting shots right now.”
Despite being hounded by Ginebra’s defense all night long, the 6-foot-5 reinforcement was able to shine and make huge plays down the stretch.
With under a minute on the clock, he nailed the go-ahead basket that secured their two-point win. Prior to that possession, he assisted Amer’s three-pointer, which proved to be the biggest shot of the night as it brought the lead back to the Bolts after the Kings momentarily stole it.
“I just focus on making the right play, whether that’s attacking the basket that I have to score myself or just finding my teammates in the right spot,” said Durham.
Looking ahead to Game 5, Black mentioned that giving their players enough rest is very important in a tough series like this. “As you get down the road, obviously the players start to feel a little bit tired because of the grind.”
However, he’s not taking any chances with regard to Durham’s playing time. He can’t put him on the bench for an extended period because Ginebra would definitely capitalize on it.
“I reminded him that he is averaging about 43 to 44 minutes a game, but if you played here in the 80s or in the 90s, you’d be averaging 48,” said Black who was once a PBA import himself. “As long as Brownlee is on the floor, he’ll be on the floor. If Brownlee comes off the floor, I’ll give him a rest. That’s the way it will go.”
The momentum may have shifted to Meralco’s side now that they have two consecutive wins under their belt, but Durham knows all too well that they can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
“With two great teams, momentum don’t mean nothing. You just gotta come out and play. They won two games in a row, they had momentum. We came back and won two games, now we got momentum. So it really don’t mean nothing. We still gotta play and execute,” he said.
“We just gotta keep doing what we’re doing. It starts on the defensive end. That’s how we’re gonna be able to win the series.”