Kia is hoping to win two of its last three matches to advance into the playoffs in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Carnival begin their drive against Alaska Milk at 4:15 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kia is coming off a 115-104 loss to Blackwater Saturday as it failed to give coach Manny Pacquiao a rousing send-off.
Kia holds a 3-5 win-loss record while Alaska sports a 2-4 record.
In the other game, San Miguel Beer takes on Barako Bull at 7 p.m.
It is the last playing date before the PBA goes on a break for the annual All-Star Weekend on March 5-8 in Palawan.
Pacquiao called the shots when the Carnival bowed to Blackwater. He left for Los Angeles, California after the game to report for training at the Wild Card Gym in preparation for his blockbuster fight against the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Of course, there is always extra motivation, extra energy if coach Manny is there with the team,” said Kia assistant coach Chito Victolero. “But we can’t do anything about it now that he’s in the US.”
“Our motivation right now is to make the playoffs, and we have a good chance,” Victolero said. “The goal is to win two of our last three games. If we can win three, much better for us, but we’ll try to get two.”
“We’re focusing first on our game against Alaska, which is crucial for us since both teams are fighting to get to the next round,” added Victolero, who wants the team to focus on defense on Alaska.
After its game with Alaska, Kia’s plays NLEX on March 18 and Rain or Shine on March 22.
Alaska is on a two-game skid and the team has yet to score a win since replacing import DJ Covington with former NBA player Damion James, a member of the 2014 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
James is averaging 33.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and three blocked shots per game, although the Aces lost to Rain or Shine (99-89) in his first game last Feb. 20 and to Barako Bull (93-91) four days later.
Alaska mentor Alex Compton expects the same tough game, considering the situation of the two teams fighting to make it to the next stage of the conference with Kia currently at ninth spot while the Aces are at No. 10 with only the top eight will advance to the playoffs.
“I think both teams will play very hard,” said Compton. “For the first time in their short time in the PBA, Kia has a distinct advantage in having an absolutely dominant import in PJ Ramos.”
“Ramos is a problem for anyone to handle, and the local players are all stepping up and making plays as well. So far it has been an excellent conference for Kia,” added Compton, who will also rely on local players Sonny Thoss, Calvin Abueva, Jvee Casio, Dondon Hinriveros and rookie Chris Banchero.
As for Kia, the 7-foot-4 Ramos, who averages 34 points and almost 2- board per game, will be the focal point for the Carnival while backing him up are LA Revilla, Mark Yee, Leo Avenido and Reil Cervantes.
Clashing at 7 p.m. are Barako Bull (4-3) and Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer, which is out to win its remaining four games to stay in playoff contention. SMB fell to 1-6 after a 113-105 overtime defeat to Purefoods last Sunday.