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PBA Finals: Nico Salva, John Pinto provide unexpected lift in Bolts’ Game 2 win

PBA Finals: Nico Salva, John Pinto provide unexpected lift in Bolts’ Game 2 win

By Jonas Terrado

Nico Salva had just navigated his way past a sea of humanity following Meralco’s win over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City when he received a thunderous welcome from his teammates inside the locker room.

Meralco's Nico Salva scored nine points off the bench in Game 2. (PBA Images)

Meralco’s Nico Salva scored nine points off the bench in Game 2. (PBA Images)

“Sobrang saya ng Finals,” Salva said after being one of the key reasons why the Bolts tied the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at 1-1 Friday night with a 104-102 victory over the Kings.

Salva and Nard Pinto were among the bench players that came through with major contributions as the Bolts prevailed despite blowing a 17-point halftime deficit and import Allen Durham having worked hardly for his numbers against the Ginebra defense.

The two accounted for 21 of the Bolts’ 29 bench points, a key statistic that benefited Meralco after blowing a 10-point lead in a 91-87 defeat in Game 1.

“Without them I don’t think we’d even win the game,” said Durham, who finished with 21 points, 18 rebounds and six assists.

Pinto scored all of his 12 points in the first quarter, hitting four threes in the process, as Meralco took control after Ginebra jumped out to a 13-6 lead behind the exploits of Justin Brownlee.

He hit all of his threes during the latter part of an 18-4 run that put the Bolts ahead 31-17. It was an unexpected lift from Pinto, who is mostly known for his defensive abilities more than being an spark on offense.

Even Pinto was somewhat surprised.

Meralco's John Pinto (10) gestures after sinking a shot as Ginebra's Japeth Aguilar (25) and Allen Durham react during Game 2 of PBA Governors' Cup Finals at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City, January 10, 2020. (MB Photo / Rio Deluvio)

John Pinto drained four threes in the first quarter to key Meralco’s first quarter onslaught. (MB Photo / Rio Deluvio)

“Siyempre parang nagulat,” said Pinto, who joined Meralco from Blackwater at the start of the season. “Ang role ko naman dito is to defend. Nagulat pero sa practice naman ginagawa ko talaga everyday.

“Hindi naman sa pag-aano pero nagshoshooting ako before ng practice kaya siguro nadala ko rin yung ginagawa ko before practice,” he added.

Pinto ran out of ammo the rest of the way, though it Meralco had plenty of surprises in store.

Salva, who before Game 2 had never played a single Finals game despite being a part of Ginebra’s 2016 Governors’ Cup title team. Black inserted his former Ateneo player early in the third, with Meralco’s big lead reduced to single digits.

And Salva was quick to make an immediate impact, hitting a medium-range jumper to put Meralco up 63-56, 8:32 left in the third. He later drained two consecutive shots to extend the Bolts’ lead to 70-61 with over five minutes remaining in the said period.

Not even a Ginebra rally that evened things up at 70-all prevented Salva from continuing his shooting exploits, hitting one of four threes Meralco made late in the third.

“I felt like yung defense of Ginebra was clogging inside so we really need to make some baskets from the outside para to give them some space for the defense to extend. Thankfully, I was able to make some shots,” he said.

“For a player na hindi nakalaro the game before, that really boosts your confidence,” Salva later said.

The Bolts also got quality minutes from veteran center Bryan Faundo, whose three before the end of the third gave them an 82-76 lead.

Anjo Caram steady playmaking in the fourth was also crucial before handing the reins back to Amer, who eventually delivered the coup de grace with two long threes.

Black could only hope such trend can continue the rest of the series in order for Meralco to enhance its chances of finally beating Ginebra and win its first-ever crown.

“We really got a big lift from the bench and that’s what we’re gonna need in the series,” Black said.

Tags: 2019 PBA Governors' Cup Finals, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, John Pinto, Meralco Bolts, Nards Pinto, Nico Salva, PBA finals, PBA Governors’ Cup Finals