MANILA, Philippines -- For three games in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, Allein Maliksi had been the hero for Meralco, scoring at will to keep them competitive against Barangay Ginebra.
But with the Bolts facing elimination on Wednesday evening, Maliksi very nearly became the goat for his squad as he struggled to find his rhythm. He missed a long three-pointer with just over 20 seconds left while they trailed 80-79 -- his eighth missed field goal of the contest.
Fortunately for Maliksi -- and the Bolts -- veteran forward Reynel Hugnatan was there to bail them out. The 42-year-old forward nailed the go-ahead jumper with 15 seconds to go, and Meralco clamped down defensively in the closing seconds to preserve an 83-80 win that forced a do-or-die game.
Afterward, Meralco coach Norman Black explained that Maliksi had simply been overeager during the game.
"I think they call it gigil," Black said. "He was just a little bit nervous in the beginning. He was taking quick shots, he was moving a little bit too fast. In other words, trying to get it all done at once."
Maliksi entered the game averaging 20.3 points while shooting 52.8% from the field, including an astounding 62.5% from long distance. In Game 4, he shot just 3-of-11 from the floor for eight points, and made just one of six attempts from beyond the arc.
Despite Maliksi's struggles in Game 4, he remains a crucial part of Meralco's rotation and will continue to play meaningful minutes for Black.
"Like I (said), he's a big player for us. We need his floor-spacing. He's one of the guys that Coach Tim (Cone) really respects because of his ability to score," Black noted. "Of course, Coach Tim was able to coach him in the past, when he was winning his championships in San Mig Coffee."
"And for us, he's a floor-spacer, a guy we need to have on the floor just to make the other team respect our outside shooting," he added.
Before his Game 4 dud, Maliksi had been all but unstoppable for Meralco and Black is optimistic that he will regain his shooting touch come Friday's Game 5.
"This is probably the first time where he didn't really shoot well (in the series)," Black pointed out. "We're hoping he'll be there for us on Friday when we really need him."
Maliksi, 33, is averaging 11.7 points per game for the Bolts in the All-Filipino Cup, while shooting 41.2% from beyond the arc.