Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – NLEX vs Meralco
7 p.m. – Purefoods vs Alaska
Manila, Philippines – The best-of-3 quarterfinals playoffs of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup kick off today with all four teams gunning for a headway in the dreaded mini-series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The No. 4 NLEX Road Warriors and the No. 5 Meralco Bolts, featuring two of the most explosive imports in the conference, clash at 4:15 p.m., with the winner moving within another victory of gaining a spot in the best-of-5 semifinals.
In the featured game, defending champion Purefoods Star, ranked third in the quarters after falling in the tiebreaker for twice-to-beat slots among eventual top seed Rain or Shine and No. 2 Talk ‘N Text, collide with the No. 6 Alaska Aces at 7 p.m.
The Aces avoided landing in the twice-to-win posts reserved for the 7th and 8th-ranked ballclubs after the eliminations by turning back Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 104-98, last Wednesday.
No. 7 Barako Bull takes on TNT and Ginebra faces ROS, with the top-ranked teams needing only to win once to reach the semis.
Of the four teams ousted outright – Kia Carnival, Globalport, San Miguel Beer and Blackwater – the Beermen paid the highest price for plunging into action in the second leg of the season as a spent force after capturing the grueling Philippine Cup.
Faced with the need for a huge winning margin over Globalport to salvage its season, SMB managed to pull off a 106-94 victory on March 24 but it was hardly enough to overcome a heavy deficit in the quotient tiebrek.
An imports galore awaits fans.
Thornton, an intense and relentless presence, will power the Road Warriors against the Bolts, fueled by the hard-driving Josh Davis. Former Best Import Denzel Bowles, meanwhile, continues to be the main cog for the Hotshots, while Damion Jones stirs up the Aces.
Purefoods and NLEX have the edge in head-to-head duel against their quarterfinal opponents.
The Hotshots routed the Aces, 108-88, on Feb. 3 at Big Dome, while the Road Warriors dumped the Bolts, 89-76, on Feb. 27 in the same venue.
Thornton handily won that matchup with Davis, pouring 36 points with 16 rebounds, while the Bolts import had 19 points and 11 rebounds behind Gary David’s explosive 28 points.
The NLEX reinforcement unloaded 24 shots and was 12 of 15 from the line. Davis, on the other hand, got off just 11 attempts against the defense and took just 8 free throws, hitting 7.
“NLEX will be a tough hurdle. They have size with Asi and they have an explosive import in Thornton. They surround those guys with shooters so they are a well balanced team. If we are to break out of our slump this is the best time to do it because there’s a semis birth on the line,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.
The Purefoods-Alaska rematch will have a major personnel change.
Gone is the irrepressible Marqus Blakely for the Hotshots after scoring 17 points with 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals that day. So is DJ Covington, who had 19 points but only 5 rebounds for the Aces, whose probably felt their imports weak inside presence will eventually be a liability.
Bowles and Jones now get to justify their respective team’s decision to bring them in.