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PBA: Aces are acid test for 3-0 Mahindra

Games Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – NLEX vs TNT Katropa
7 p.m. – Alaska vs Mahindra

To have an unbeaten record and the early lead is something that Mahindra rookie coach Chris Gavina did not reckon with, considering the adjustments in preparation that entailed the PBA Governors’ Cup.

The same goes to TNT Katropa due to key players recovering from injuries.

But with similar 3-0 cards, the Enforcer and the Tropang Texters try to keep the streak going when they face separate foes today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

TNT takes center stage when it battles NLEX at 4:15 p.m., while Mahindra collides with Alaska at 7 p.m. Both the Road Warriors and the Aces sport similar 1-2 slates and are tied with the Blackwater Elite.

Mahindra, only in its second season, is on its best start in franchise history and is coming off a 105-103 win over defending champion San Miguel Beer a week ago.

It was a game where coach Manny Pacquiao surprised the team and basketball fans when he arrived at the Big Dome with wife Jinky.

The victory gave Mahindra a clean 4-0 record versus SMB in import-flavored conferences, and 4-2 overall since joining the PBA as one of two expansion teams.

While it may be surprising for Gavina to see Mahindra on top and unbeaten, he said that their sacrifices and work during the break and in practice sessions are proof that something good is bound to happen if they persevere.

Gavina said their game against Alaska is a crucial step toward their goal of booking a spot in the playoffs.

“Our game against Alaska is pivotal for our goal,” he said. “So our preparation just like our previous three games is one of playoff do-or-die mentality.”

“We have stayed hungry and are looking forward to going head-to-head with a very strong and talented Alaska squad,” added Gavina, whose team will face a team that suffered a 120-118 defeat to TNT last Friday.

Leading the Enforcer is import James White, who is averaging 28 points and 13 rebounds, while backing him up are locals KG Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, LA Revilla, Jason Ballesteros, Mark Yee and rookie Bradwyn Guinto.

As for Alaska, coach Alex Compton will rely on import Don Henton, who averages nearly 33 points per game with almost 12 rebounds.

Providing support for the Aces are the local mainstays Calvin Abueva, who is returning from a one-game suspension, Vic Manuel, JV Casio, Dondon Hontiveros, Sonny Thoss, RJ Jazul and Chris Banchero.

Also exciting is the game between TNT – a team that missed Kelly Williams, Troy Rosario and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser in the first two games – and NLEX, which lost its last two games, including a 72-85 setback to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel where Asi Taulava served a one-game suspension.

The 6-foot-10 veteran Taulava will return for NLEX to face his former team and provide help for import Henry Walker, who averages almost 32 points and 9 boards, as well as Kevin Alas, Sean Anthony, Garvo Lanete and Jonas Villanueva.

As for TNT, Jayson Castro – the PBA press Corps Player of the Week (POW) who is averaging 23 points per game – will lead the team with help from veterans Ranidel de Ocampo, Larry Fonacier, Danny Seigle, Harvey Carey and Williams, rookies Rosario and Mo Tautuaa, and imports Mario Little and Michael Madanley.