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PBA: Kings press bid vs NLEX

LA Tenorio

Games Today (Ynares Sports Center, Antipolo City)
4:15 p.m. – Blackwater vs Alaska
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs NLEX

Hope springs eternal for the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings.

With four games left to play, the possibility is strong crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra San Miguel can still clinch a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

But a lot depends on the outcome of the Kings’ battle with the NLEX Road Warrios today at the resumption of PBA action at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City.

Ginebra takes on NLEX at 7 p.m. after the 4:15 p.m. encounter between expansion team Blackwater and Alaska.

Prior to the league’s break for the PBA All-Star Weekend in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Ginebra has won its last two assignments – the second against Blackwater (89-82).

The win improved Ginebra’s record to 4-3 behind defending champion Purefoods Star (5-3). Currently on top is Talk ’N Text with a 6-2 record, while tied for second and third places are Rain or Shine and Meralco with identical 5-2 cards.

Three Ginebra players participated in the All-Star Game, with LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar suited up for the victorious North Team, and Greg Slaughter jamming with the South Team.

“It was a memorable experience playing in the All-Star with Greg and Japeth,” Tenorio said. “Now we’re back with Ginebra, so our focus is to help the team win.

“Our goal is to win the last four to have a shot at the twice-to-beat.”

Slaughter is of the same mind.

“We expect the games to be tough because teams are all fighting and battling for playoff berths… even the teams at the bottom. We’re looking forward to improving our chance,” he said.

Ginebra will face a team that has also won its last two prior to the All-Star break, including an 89-76 win over Meralco last Feb. 27 where import Al Thornton fired 37 points with 16 rebounds. NLEX carries a 3-4 record.

This conference, the former NBA veteran is averaging 31.4 points and 12.7 rebounds. He will be up against the Kings’ reinforcement Michael Dunigan who has 23.3 points and 13.39 rebounds per game this conference.

Aside from Thornton, the Road Warriors will also have All-Star participants Asi Taulava, KG Canaleta and Jonas Villanueva, as well as Mark Cardona, Aldrech Ramos and Mark Borboran.

As for Ginebra, other players expected to step up are Mark Caguioa, who was selected by fans as a starter for the North Team but begged off due to a hip injury, Jayjay Helterbrand, Mac Baracael and Joseph Yeo.

The matchup between Alaska and Blackwater is equally exciting as the two teams square off to fuel their respective playoff chances, with the Aces holding a 2-5 card and the Elite tied at 2-6 with Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer for 11th to 12th places.

Only the top eight squads will qualify in the quarterfinal round, while the bottom four will be automatically eliminated. The top two will earn twice-to-beat incentives against the seventh and eighth teams, while the third to sixth qualifiers will play in the crossover best-of-three series.