4:15 p.m. – Blackwater vs Meralco
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Rain or Shine
Known for his off-rhythm spin moves to the basket, Ryan Araña’s derring-do will be put to a unique test tonight – the first of maybe a couple in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup.
The former Rain or Shine slasher gets to show if he would be bold enough to risk getting knocked down by cutting through the middle against Elasto Painters bangers Beau Belga, JR Quinahan and Raymond Almazan? Or will he get a free pass from his ex-teammates, at least today, unless ROS coach Yeng Guiao screams for his head?
Araña has seen action in the first two games of defending champion San Miguel since getting traded to the Beermen during the off-season, but this marks the first time he will step on the playing court in his neon-colored rubber shoes against Rain or Shine, the team he considered home for the last eight years.
Tied with two other 2-0 teams atop the standings, the Beermen and E-Painters clash for solo leadership at 7 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena when action resumes following a break to observe All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and before the league goes on a two-day trip to Dubai where Alaska, Mahindra and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel are scheduled to thrill thousands of OFWs.
A four-team logjam at the No. 1 spot will break up, with the winner vaulting over the two others and the loser sliding to solo fourth.
SMB is coming off a tough 101-85 victory over the Meralco Bolts last Oct. 28, while Rain or Shine went on a 9-day break after turning back Mahindra, 108-94, in a bench battle of two members of the House of Representatives and where Enforcers playing-coach Manny Pacquiao, an eight-division world champion, nailed his first target outside a boxing ring.
In the first game, the Blackwater Elite continue their pursuit of a breakthrough win in this first conference after going 0-11 last season and opening at 0-2 this year. Standing in their way is Meralco, which came close to upsetting SMB only to wither in the fourth quarter.
Blackwater fought the Alaska Aces on even terms last Oct. 30 but faded in the end, 87-79.
An interesting sidelight to the Blackwater-Meralco game is the debut of San Beda teammates Art dela Cruz and Baser Amer on opposite sides of the playing court.
Dela Cruz, drafted 9th overall by the Elite, is expected to get early exposure and could run into his Red Lions buddy Amer, who was picked at No. 7 by the Bolts.
The two prized rookies figured prominently in the recent NCAA Finals where San Beda saw its bid for a historic six straight championship foiled by the Letran Knights in a dramatic Game 3.
Meanwhile, after the Dubai experience where Alaska faces Mahindra on Friday and the Aces take on winless Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Saturday, eight of the next nine PBA playdates will be housed at the Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA) in Pasig, with a break on Nov. 14 when Talk ‘N Text meets the Star Hotshots in Lucena City.
Elimination round action returns to the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Nov. 20, with stops at the Cuneta Astrodome on Nov. 21, Ynares Center (Nov. 22), Mall of Asia Arena (Nov. 28 and Dec. 3), Angeles City (Dec. 5), Cuneta Astrodome (Dec. 9), and MOA Arena (Dec. 20).
The games between Ginebra and Meralco, and Barako and Mahindra, called off due to Typhoon Lando weeks ago, will be played on Dec. 22 at a yet-to-be-named venue. (TITO S. TALAO)