Once the leather left his hands, Meralco wingman Jared Dillinger felt it would go in. And it did.
“It’s like a one-in-a-million shot,” beamed the 6-foot-3 Dillinger of his miraculous buzzer-beating heave from the three-point area on the other side, highlighting the Bolts’ impressive 86-70 victory over the Alaska Aces on Monday night to force a sudden-death match in their best-of-five PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals series at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The big triple, one of Dillinger’s four made tries that spiked his team-high 17-point performance, put a perfect ending to the Bolts’ 26-point showing in the third quarter, restore their lead back to eight and went on to be the driving force in their decisive pull-away in the final canto, paving the way for a Game 5 battle on Wednesday at the Big Dome.
“It’s funny because right when I let it go, I felt like it had a good chance. That’s why I kind of stood down and looked at it because I left like it had a good chance of going in. I’ll take it at this point,” added Dillinger, who also had five rebounds and an assist.
“It definitely carried some momentum going into the fourth quarter. When we started the fourth, we hit some shots and it kind ballooned the scoreboard a little bit.
It definitely helped the momentum for us.”
After Meralco coach Norman Black lamented what he deemed as a “lazy” performance in their 72-92 setback in Game 3 last Friday, Dillinger admitted he and the rest of the Bolts took that into their hearts.
“We really took it as a challenge when coach told us that we didn’t come out with any kind of energy and effort for Game 3. So we all wanted to make it a point that we’ll gonna leave it all out there tonight. And I think we did that from top to bottom,” he said.
“Everyone went out there and give their 150 percent. That’s all we can ask for. good thing we won this game. now we’ll immediately rest as much as we can and be ready for Wednesday,” Dillinger added.
Although they are ranged against an Aces side looking to make the finals for the third time in the last four conferences, Dillinger likes the chances of the Bolts, who are also aching to redeem themselves from a three-game sweep against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the mid-season tourney semis last year.
“The series is tied at 2-2 and it’s anybody’s game now,” said Dillinger. “It’s a little bit different from last season. This season, everyone’s healthy and everyone’s on the same page.”
With the right to face the Elasto Painters in a best-of-seven titular showdown up for grabs, Dillinger expects nothing less than an all-out war.
“At this point, when you go to a do-or-die game, you don’t need X’s and O’s. Everyone knows their tendencies. It’s just about who has the more heart and guts to execute the game plan. We believe we can win and ready to go,” he said. – By Jerome Lagunzad
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports