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(Mall of Asia Arena)
4:15 p.m. – Globalport vs Meralco
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Blackwater
Beermen coach Austria wary of ‘self-motivated’ Blackwater.
Defending champion San Miguel will likely begin a busy three-day stretch without veteran point guard Alex Cabagnot as it takes on Blackwater today in the resumption of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Beermen coach Leo Austria said Cabagnot will be doubtful for tonight’s 7 p.m. encounter with the Elite after sustaining an injured nose in their 101-86 victory over the Meralco Bolts last Dec. 28 at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The 12-year playmaker, who has been participating in individual drills at practice despite the injury, may return on Sunday for San Miguel’s showdown with sister team Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cabangot suffered the injury after he got fouled by Meralco’s Cliff Hodge with 8:10 remaining in the third quarter of their game. The southpaw was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital and was diagnosed with a depressed nasal fracture.
San Miguel is eager to win both games in order to solidify its hold of the top spot in the season-opening conference.
The Beermen lead the standings with a 5-1 record, winning their last four games after falling to the Phoenix Fuel Masters last Nov. 30.
“Kailangan maging consistent kami, and then masustain namin yung pinapakita namin dahil very convincing ang panalo namin sa last game,” said Austria, who is hopeful that the team would be in deadly form come playoff time.
They face a Blackwater team determined to bounce back from a 97-93 overtime loss to Mahindra on Christmas Day at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. In that match, the Elite led by double digits in the fourth quarter, only to suffer a meltdown.
Attention will also be on forward Mac Belo, who has been the most impressive rookie this conference, resulting in four victories in Blackwater’s first seven games.
“Mahirap kalaban itong Blackwater,” Austria said. “Self-motivated at inspired sila, maybe because of a lot of players na na-inject sa kanila. May impact yung mga yun, kaya inspired na inspired silang maglaro.”
Beermen star center June Mar Fajardo will once again be the center of attention, especially after emerging as the leader in the race for the Best Player of the Conference award.
He has been getting plenty of help, notably Chris Ross, Arwind Santos, RR Garcia and Marcio Lassiter.
Meanwhile, Globalport and Meralco clash in the opening match set at 4:15 p.m. Both teams, with the Batang Pier at 3-3 and the Bolts at 2-4, ended 2016 with losses and would like to open the new year on a positive note.
Globalport may vent its ire on Meralco after the Batang Pier squandered a 26-point fourth quarter lead in a shock 101-99 setback to the Fuel Masters, also last Dec. 28.