Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Alaska vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – NLEX vs Purefoods
Manila, Philippines – Brushing aside reference to their clean slate, Alaska Aces coach Alex Compton says their 5-0 record amounts to only one thing: That they can’t go 0-7 the rest of the 11-game elimination round.
True, cute calculation notwithstanding.
But the Aces can still go 0-6 in a worst case scenario although at the blistering pace they are going, knocking down the big guns in the PBA Philippine Cup with a lethal combination of offense and defense and then letting off just enough steam to extinguish a newcomer, it is unlikely trouble will be brewing anytime soon.
The Blackwater Elite can give it their best shot, however, when the teams from opposite poles in the standings meet at 4:15 p.m. today.
Both ballclubs will be separately motivated.
Alaska needs this win to ward off encroaching Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (5-1) three weeks before their titanic clash at the Mall of Asia Arena. Blackwater, on the other hand, is gasping for air with five straight losses and has to get out of the cellar before it runs out of time.
The Elite have six more games to neutralize the effects of their disastrous loss to Manny Pacquiao and Kia Motors on opening day at the Philippine Arena, a defeat that could lead to their ouster in their debut conference where the two teams with the worst win-loss records after 11 games get booted out.
But the Aces can’t be expected to lower their defenses the way they did against Kia Sorento last Tuesday where they needed a flurry in the closing minutes to pull off an 85-75 win. Calvin Abueva had 23 points and 20 rebounds as a one-man wrecking crew in 37 minutes and was the unstoppable force that propelled Alaska.
Blackwater recently bowed to Globalport, 87-72, with the Elite leading in the first 12 minutes before getting routed in the third quarter. They missed 47 of 76 shots, took 11 less free throws and were hammered in rebounds, 49-39, by an opponent whose top rebounders that night were forward Mark Isip (12) and point guard Alex Cabagnot (11).
Meanwhile, slumping Grand Slam champion Purefoods, its dreams of a fifth straight championship, much less the Crispa Redmanizers’ record six consecutive titles, perhaps the farthest thing from its mind right now, battles Asi Taulava and NLEX at 7:15 p.m., with both teams looking to rebound from tough losses.
The Road Warriors (2-3) have dropped their last two games, the latest a 79-76 heartbreaker to San Miguel Beer in Tubod, Lanao del Norte last Saturday, while the Hotshots (1-3), turning cold with every game, were blown off the Big Dome, 89-66, by Barangay Ginebra the following day.
That crushing loss spoiled the return of Purefoods star James Yap from a mild hamstring injury and pushed the Hotshots precariously close to matching their 1-5 start in the 2013 Philippine Cup which they eventually bagged as the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers after winning 6 of their next 8 games in the eliminations.