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PBA: Purefoods eyes share of lead

GlobalPort's CJ Leslie looses the ball against the defense of Purefoods Marqus Blakely and Alex Mallari and Joe Devance during PBA action at Cuneta Astrodome.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Globalport
7 p.m. – Blackwater vs Purefoods

Defending champion Purefoods guns for a share of leadership in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup today even as Rain or Shine and Globalport part ways in fifth spot at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Purefoods (2-0) takes on winless expansion team Blackwater (0-3) at 7 p.m. following the 4:15 p.m. curtainraiser pitting Rain or Shine (1-1) and Globalport (1-1).

The Star Hotshots can tie early leader Meralco with their third straight win, while the winner of the Elasto Painters-Batang Pier tussle will move one rung higher to 4th place in the company of idle Talk ‘N Text.

The Tropang Texters absorbed their first loss Wednesday after a 2-0 start, bowing to Meralco in a battle of pace-setters, 91-83. Gary David had 17 points and import Josh Davis 17 rebounds as the Bolts continued to fan their hottest start in a long while.

Purefoods will be walking to the Blackwater game armed with the lessons learned from watching Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer pay the price for taking the Kia Carnival lightly two days ago.

Probably believing the game against Manny Pacquiao’s team would be nothing more than a joy ride aboard a sleek SUV, the Beermen got run down instead, 88-78, as Kia subjected SMB’s Grand Slam aspirations to an early acid test.

San Miguel missed 23 of 24 three-point attempts as Kia Motors claimed only its second victory in its first two conferences.

As ready as the Hotshots are, Coach Tim Cone isn’t one to take chances, especially with Blackwater parading Gilas Pilipinas center Marcus Douthit.

Cone is bringing in 6-foot-9 former Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizard center Daniel Orton to do battle with the 6-foot-11 Douthit, a virtual tryout for Orton as Marqus Blakely, who sparked Purefoods in its first two games, steps aside.

“It’s Daniel’s spot to lose,” said Cone after announcing Orton will be joining the team in practice Wednesday with the possibility of suiting up for the Blackwater game.

Still Cone left his options open as far as Blakely is concerned.

“We may have a chance to play Marqus one more game,” he said.

Blakely had 17 points, along with Alex Mallari, in the Hotshots’ 108-88 dismantling of the undermanned Alaska Aces that evening, a performance Cone admitted with a smile may be bordering on one-upmanship.

“Yeah, he may be trying to show that he has what it takes to mix it up with the big guys; after all, Marqus has played the power forward spot all his life,” said Cone.

If Cone likes what he sees in practice, Orton, a University of Kentucky star, could get the call for today’s game. If not and he requires familiarity with the system, the 270-lb. Oklahoma native may get to debut no earlier than Feb. 11 when Purefoods takes on NLEX at the Big Dome.

Douthit had 14 points, 17 rebounds and 4 blocks on his reactivation to active duty last Feb. 2 where Talk ‘N Text downed Blackwater, 88-78, marking he Elite’s 13th straight loss from the opening of the 40th PBA season last October.

Rain or Shine, meanwhile, eyes its back-to-back victory following its 96-91 triumph over the NLEX Road Warriors where Paul Lee saved the day and the entire Elasto Painters team paid tribute to the Fallen 44.

Players had the No. 44 sewn on the left of their jerseys while the coaching staff, led by coach Yeng Guiao, wore black armbands in “a small gesture of sympathy” for the 44 SAF officers killed while in pursuit of international terrorists in Maguindanao.