San Miguel Beer hopes to put its heart-breaking loss to Alaska behind when it battles newcomer North Luzon Expressway in a PBA Philippine Cup out-of-town game today at the Mindanao Civic Center in Tubod, Lanao del Norte.
The two teams are actually nursing painful setbacks, making the lone game of the Petron Saturday Special more exciting as they try to boost their playoff bids in the season-opening conference.
What makes their 5 p.m. encounter more interesting is the showdown between the past and present MVPs – Asi Taulava of NLEX and June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel.
The 6-foot-9 Taulava, the 2003 MVP, has continued to amaze PBA fans as he defied father time to contribute decent numbers for the team – offensively and defensively – averaging 16.50 points and nearly 10 rebounds.
Taulava is already 41 while Fajardo, the reigning MVP, will turn 26 on Nov. 17.
SMB lost to Alaska, 66-63, last Wednesday despite controlling the game in the first three quarters. The Beermen were held to their lowest scoring output this conference after averaging 92.3 points in its first three games.
They also shot a miserable 22-of-76 (29%) from the field, far from the second-best 45.4 shooting percentage of the team when San Miguel Beer opened with a 3-0 win-loss card.
San Miguel Coach Leo Austria said they have to forget their meltdown if they want to get back on the winning track.
“We have to focus on our next game, which is against NLEX,” said Austria. “Both teams lost last Wednesday, and will be looking to rebound from that defeat so it’s an exciting game.”
“This is a tough team. The only new on that team is their team name, but they have veteran players, who know how to compete, who know how to win. So it’s going to be tough,” added Austria.
The loss put San Miguel Beer in a three-way tie with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco at 3-1.
Alaska is on top with an immaculate 4-0 record.
NLEX lost to Meralco last Wednesday, 90-75, which gave the Road Warriors 2-2 record, tying Talk ’N Text, Rain or Shine and Globalport for fifth to eighth places.
“We have to be more consistent with our offensive execution and toughen our defense… play hard,” said NLEX head coach Boyet Fernandez, who has a 1-2 record after missing the first game due to his role as coach of San Beda College in the NCAA Finals.
Also expected to step up for NLEX are Mark Cardona, Niño Canaleta, Jonas Villanueva, Aldrech Ramos, Rico Villanueva, Mark Borboran, and rookies Juneric Baloria and Jeckster Apinan.
As for San Miguel, the team will also rely on former MVP Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Sol Mercado, Ronald Tubid, Nelbert Omolon, and rookies Ronald Pascual and David Semerad.