NBA veteran Lou Amundson debuts with TNT; still loses to Meralco

MANILA, Philippines - 10-year NBA veteran Louis “Lou” Amundson debuted impressively with Talk 'N Text (TNT) but fell short in the hands of sister team Meralco Bolts, 94 - 89, on Friday, March 24 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

NBA veteran Lou Amundson debuts with TNT
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Before the Commissioner’s Cup had started, TNT’s first reinforcement choice was former Star Hotshot regular import, Denzel Bowl. But few days after the opening of the conference, Coach Nash Racela had decided to send Bowles home due to personal issues. To replace the versatile Center, the Texters summoned the NBA veteran.

Amundson, who started his NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2007 and last seen suited up with New York Knicks last year came in the country 3 days before their first game. Lou, who had barely acclimated himself in the Philippine style of basketball showed that he’s not as rusty as most people think. With less than a minute gone by in the opening tipoff, Amundson fired without any hesitation from the outside followed by a perimeter jumper. He missed his 2 sets of charities though after a quick 5 points. Baser Amer on the other hand, placed the Meralco Bolts on the scoreboard with a back-to-back three pointers.

The heart and soul of TNT and the best point guard in Asia, though dressed-up, didn’t set his feet on the hardcourt due to his hamstring injury that he sustained during the early phase of All Filipino Cup semis against the eventual Champions, San Miguel Beermen. Castro might be out for this game, but his shooting chores weren’t missed that much by his teammates as Lou Amundson took over the scoring routine and continued to drain triples from the downtown.

Due to the extreme hot weather in the country, Amundson had to take an early breather with 5 minutes remaining in the first. Bolts’ import, Alex Stephenson, took advantage of Amundson’s absence on the floor and flexed his muscle against secondary TNT middle defender Kelly Williams and managed to level the score to 22-all after the first 12 minutes of the ballgame.

The NBA journeyman has exceeded Coach Racela’s expectations as he tallied his first PBA double-digits at the start of the 2nd period. After his 10th point, he was once again sent back to bench so he won’t gas out and sustain his energy all throughout the game.

“When the cat is out, the mice will play”. This was the story of the entire 1st half. Every time that Amundson was on the sidelines, the Bolts caught up and closed the scoring gap. Impressively, the Meralco locals stepped-up led by no other than Baser Amer. Alex Stephenson was too quiet offensively but pretty loud in grabbing the boards with 14 under his name before the the halftime break.

Veteran Reynel Hugnatan and young gun Chris Newsome joined Baser Amer in scoring spree but Ryan Reyes countered to keep their margin 50-46 at the end of the half.

Amundson all of a sudden changed his style of play entering the 3rd. He started to muscle-up inside the shaded lane and set his three point prowess aside. His counterpart, Alex Stephenson who played for the Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies, began to dominate the basket and shook the ring twice with monstrous jams. Stephenson evened the game at 58 apiece with over 7 minutes remaining in the penultimate quarter.

Baser Amer who was named as the Best Player of the game in their previous game against Mahindra continued to attack the basket and break the defensive barriers for the 67-61 Meralco lead after 29 long minutes.

Turnovers were really killing the Tropang Texters in the 2nd half despite of Amundson’s presence. Ranidel De Ocampo and Troy Rosario’s offensive services were also missing for TNT which resulted to a 6-point, 74-68 deficit after the 3rd period.

It seemed that the NBA magic faded for Amundson. After an almost impeccable shooting performance in the first half, the 6’8 center had gone ice cold while his fellow import Stephenson had already recorded a terrific 20 / 20 stats with 20 points and 22 rebounds with 7:39 remaining in the final canto.

Great ball movement had become the bread and butter of Meralco in the last 12 minutes of the game. Shooters like Jared Dillinger and Baser Amer benefited bigtime from their team’s tremendous ball distribution. At the 2-minute warning, where they were up by 8 points, Coach Norman Black gave his boys a go signal to melt the clock so they can seal the deal and record their 2-game winning streak.

Final horn echoed in the entire coliseum and the Meralco Bolts headed to the dugout with their heads up high with the 94-89 win.

--Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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