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PBA: SMB shoots for solo lead

Game Today
(Cagayan de Oro City)
5 p.m. – San Miguel vs NLEX

Defending champion San Miguel Beer aims for solo lead when it clashes with struggling NLEX in the first out-of-town game of the season in the PBA Philippine Cup today at the Xavier University gym in Cagayan de Oro City.

The Beermen are in a three-way tie with the GlobalPort Batang Pier and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, all with 3-1 win-loss records.

The lone encounter between SMB and NLEX in this Petron Saturday Special is set at 5 p.m.

SMB is fresh from a hard-fought game against Mahindra, escaping with a 94-91 victory that saw reigning three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo finish with 28 points and 15 rebounds.

Former league MVP Arwind Santos also had a solid game with 18 points, while veteran guards Alex Cabagnot and Ronald Tubid contributed 15 and 10 points, respectively.

Despite that balanced attack by San Miguel, mentor Leo Austria pointed to the team’s struggles especially on the offensive end against Mahindra after they had 19 turnovers – six by Fajardo.

That is where San Miguel, according to Austria, should improve.

“We have to take care of the ball, we can’t allow ourselves to commit that many turnovers,” said Austria. “That is what I told the players, and we’ve been working hard in practice.”

“Our game against Mahindra should serve as a lesson, now that we are facing another team that is eager to get a win.

We know NLEX will be fired up, so we have to stay focused,” added Austria.

After opening the season with a win under new coach Yeng Guiao, NLEX has dropped three straight games – the last against Blackwater (96-85) last Wednesday.

Against the Elite, the Road Warriors were without Asi Taulava (migraine), Garvo Lanete (sprained ankle) and Enrico Villanueva (MCL). Taulava is expected to return against SMB for the matchup with Fajardo.

For Guiao, it will be more about improving team chemistry and for players to take advantage of the playing time made available by the injuries that hit their roster.

“It’s going to be a big test for us playing San Miguel,” said Guiao, who opted to end his tenure with Rain or Shine by signing with NLEX prior to the season.

Expected to step up for the Road Warriors are guards Carlo Lastimosa, Kevin Alas, forwards Bradwyn Guinto, Mac Baracael, Sean Anthony, Glenn Khobuntin, Raul Soyud, and Eric Camson.