Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Globalport vs San Miguel
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs NLEX
Manila, Philippines – San Miguel Beer and Rain or Shine, two teams in the running for automatic berths in the semifinals, try to extend their respective win streaks to four when they face different foes in the PBA Philippine Cup today as action returns at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen and the Elasto Painters are currently at second and third place behind the Alaska Aces (7-1), with all three fighting for the top two slots in the best-of-seven semifinals.
San Miguel clashes with Globalport (4-4) at 4:15 p.m., while ROS meets newcomer North Luzon Expressway (3-4) at 7 p.m. at the Big Dome after the league played out-of-town games the last three days.
Only last Friday, NLEX snapped a three-game skid by beating expansion team Blackwater (104-84) as Asi Taulava collected 24 points and 10 rebounds despite risking ankle injury by wearing classic Chuck Taylor at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Rain or Shine Coach Yeng Guiao is wary about NLEX, with the 6-foot-9 Taulava manning the shaded lane.
“Asi, as always, is a matchup problem especially when they hit the outside shots,” said Guiao in a text message from Hong Kong after watching Manny Pacquiao’s fight against American Chris Algieri last Sunday in Macau.
“More so now, we are shorthanded with our big guys… Jervy Cruz (calf) is still recovering from injury,” added Guiao, who is expected to return Monday night and call the shots for Rain or Shine.
One thing going for Rain or Shine is the team’s recent success after winning its last three games, including a masterful 107-79 victory over Meralco in Davao City last Nov. 15.
Also, the long break gave several players opportunity to recover from aches and pains, including Paul Lee who has been sidelined twice after figuring in separate leg injury early in the conference.
“Siempre malaking bagay yung makapahinga kahit pano maski na ongoing ang conference. We’re ready to play against NLEX,” said Lee, who led the Painters with 20 points against the Bolts.
In that game, Rain or Shine shot 38-of-81 (47%) from the field, including 13-of-35 (37%) from three-point territory, while its defense held Meralco to 27-of-76 (36%) shooting even as Guiao was ejected with 10 minutes left in the second period after receiving back-to-back technical for complaining to a non-call.
“We are slowly hitting our stride but we have to constantly guard against complacency,” said Guiao. “I see good signs of recovering from a bad start. The NLEX game will sustain this momentum if we can muster a win.”
San Miguel Beer will also try to shoot for a fourth straight win as the Beermen are fresh from a 90-74 win against expansion team Kia Sorento that saw reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo score a personal -high 36 points – highlighted by his first career three-pointer – with 17 rebounds last week.
SMB will face a Globalport side that is nursing a painful 87-84 setback to Alaska during the PBA’s Petron Saturday Special in Cagayan de Oro City that dropped its record to 4-4.
With the top two squads earning outright slots in the Final Four at the end of a single round elimination phase, the third to sixth qualifiers will have twice-to-beat incentives against the seventh to 10th teams in the first phase of the quarterfinals.
The winners will advance in another crossover round, this time knockouts with the survivors moving to the semifinals to meet the top two playoff teams of the conference. (Waylon Galvez)