Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3:15 p.m. – Barako Bull vs Kia
5 p.m. – San Miguel Beer vs Barangay Ginebra
Ever thought a PBA conference would kick off with long shot Barako Bull undefeated and shooting for a share of leadership, and multi-titled San Miguel Beer and crowd heavy Barangay Ginebra San Miguel gobbling dirt near the tail end of the race?
That scenario is upon the PBA Commissioner’s Cup as Philippine Cup champion San Miguel greeted the second conference with an embarrassing loss and Barangay Ginebra buckled on stepping into a 0-2 hole.
Barako Bull, which came upon a gold mine in its two Solomons – Alabi, the Energy’s 7-foot import, and Mercado, their ultra-aggressive point guard – look to tie the hot-starting Meralco Bolts and defending champion Purefoods Star with 3-0 cards when it takes on the supremely confident Kia Carnival today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Gametime is at 3:15 p.m.; followed by the San Miguel-Barangay Ginebra non-winner main event at 5 p.m.
The Energy are coming off a heart-stopping 69-68 victory over the Kings last Sunday, while the Carnival, with playing-coach Manny Pacquiao probably back on the bench, are fresh from a historic conquest of San Miguel, 88-78, on Wednesday.
Ginebra continues to grope for form and identity after dropping its first two games – to Meralco, 85-74, at the Mall of Asia Arena in the Jan. 27 conference inaugurals, and to Blackwater after a potential game-winning play went awry.
Chico Lanete, recently named Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week, had 17 points, including a big 3-point shot late in the game against Barangay Ginebra, while Alabi added 13 with 20 rebounds.
Kings import Michael Dunigan, who chose Barangay Ginebra over Meralco when both teams came calling, struggled after suffering from a suspected food poisoning and is still looking for a breakout game other than his 11 points and 12 rebounds offering against Barako Bull.
The Kings, however, will be up against an SMB team aching to rebound from one its most dismal performances ever, missing 23 of 24 three-point attempts in bowing to Kia Motors.
The Carnival could be reunited with Pacquiao, who missed his team’s first three games after serving as a judge in the Miss Universe Pageant in Miami, exchanging phone numbers with Floyd Mayweather Jr., and getting stranded in a snowstorm in the East Coast.
With Pacquiao back, assistant coach Chito Victolero, who called the shots against Ginebra, will slide back to his original role although the 8-division boxing champion could opt to defer to Victolero until he becomes more familiar with the team’s system.
Providing side interest in the Barako-Kia game is the sky-scraping matchup between Alabi and 7-foot-4 PJ Ramos, both giants of ferocious demeanor but of gentle nature and hilarious persuasion.