Games Tomorrow (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Talk ‘N Text vs Barako Bull
7 p.m. – Kia Motors vs Barangay Ginebra
Expansion ballclubs, not powerhouse teams, are wreaking havoc on the Grand Slam II bid of PBA Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer.
After falling to Manny Pacquiao’s Kia Carnival last week, the Beermen absorbed another defeat this time at the hands of the Blackwater Elite, 80-77, to start their PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign 0-3 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
SMB is coming off a recent loss to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
Powered by Gilas Pilipinas center Marcus Douthit, the Elite’s breakthrough win ended a 14-game losing streak from last conference and narrowed the gap between them and fellow expansion team Kia, which beat Blackwater in the season inaugurals last October at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Douthit, tapped to stand in for Blackwater’s injured import Chris Charles, bounced back from an embarrassing clanged dunk late in the third quarter to score 20 points with 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals in 42:02 minutes.
It was in one of those steals that Douthit galloped downcourt after a swipe with SMB import Ronald Roberts trailing, gave Roberts one look, and took off for a two-handed slam.
He missed – and the embarrassed smile on his usually stoic face was a sight to remember, erased only after he redeemed himself with a completed jam later that gave the Elite a 77-72 lead with 1:28 to go.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac made his first appearance in the post-game interview, jokingly escorted to the press room by PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial.
“This is a moment to cherish, especially for the Blackwater franchise,” said Isaac. “After 14 games, we finally tasted victory. We really wanted to experience this a lot earlier but still we’re very thankful. Hopefully this win will turn things on the brighter side for us.”
Without a doubt, the 34-year-old, 6-foot-11 former Los Angeles Laker center was instrumental in parting the dark clouds.
Douthit joined Blackwater in its second game against Talk ‘N Text, groped for form and familiarity in the Elite’s next assignment against defending champion Purefoods, and finally delivered in his third stint.
With Charles, Blackwater’s original choice, on his way back to competitive form after pulling a hamstring muscle and twisting his foot during practice, Isaac said team management faces a tough decision.
“With the way Marcus is playing, it will be a hard choice,” said Isaac, a teammate of SMB coach Leo Austria in the multi-titled Masagana 99 team in the Philippine Amateur Basketball League in the early 80s.
Austria faces an even harder choice.
After dropping their third straight game, including an 88-78 loss to Kia, the Beermen, who won a Grand Slam in 1989, will have to decide whether to stick it out with the 6-foot-7 Roberts or find a replacement to rekindle their second Triple Crown bid.
Roberts had 18 points and 17 rebounds but seemed unable to take control and carry SMB when the locals are having an off night.
The Beermen narrowly shot 30 percent from the floor and again had a harrowing night from beyond the 3-point arc where they missed 21 of 26 attempts. Arwind Santos, the hero of SMB’s Game 7 triumph over Alaska in the Philippine Cup Finals, continued to misfire from afar, going 0 of 14 in 3-pointers in their first two games and hitting 1 of 6 against the Elite.
June Mar Fajardo, SMB’s 6-foot-10 center and the PH Cup’s Best Player of the Conference, played just 18 minutes because of a reported ankle sprain.
Blackwater lost a 60-52 fourth quarter lead, but got it back behind Douthit, Brian Heruela, Gilbert Bulawan and Riego Gamalinda, whose 3-pointer with 2:41 left broke a 72-all tie.
BLACKWATER 80 – Douthit 20, Heruela 11, Faundo 10, Nuyles 8, Gamalinda 7, Bulawan 6, Salvacion 6, Canada 3, Celiz 3, Ballesteros 2, Laure 2, Acuna 2, Timberlake 0, Reyes 0, Erram 0.
SAN MIGUEL 77 – Roberts 18, Lutz 16, Santos 11, Tubid 9, Cabagnot 5, Lassiter 5, Fajardo 5, Ross 4, Omolon 2, Fortuna 2, Maierhofer 0, Kramer 0, Reyes 0, Semerad 0.
Quarters: 11-21, 38-44, 60-52, 80-77
PUREFOODS 87 – Barroca 17, Orton 16, Maliksi 13, Devance 11, Pingris 7, Yap 7, Melton 4, Mallari 4, Pennisi 3, Taha 2, Gaco 2, Reavis 1, Alvarez 0, Allado 0.
NLEX 62 – Canaleta 13, Thornton 11, Taulava 11, Cardona 9, Ramos 7, Arboleda 3, Baloria 3, Lingganay 2, Borboran 2, Villanueva J. 1, Hermida 0, Soyud 0, Camson 0, Apinan 0.
Quarterscores: 22-20, 36-26, 65-45, 87-62