(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – NLEX vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Phoenix
The Phoenix Fuel Masters eye another upset victory even without their prized rookie Matthew Wright as they face the well-rested Meralco Bolts today in the resumption of the PBA Commissioners Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Wright won’t be seeing action for the Fuel Masters in the crucial 7 p.m. match with the Bolts after he was selected in the 12-man roster of Gilas Pilipinas for the SEABA Championship set May 12 to 18 at the same venue.
Under the agreement forged by the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, players selected to what Gilas coach Chot Reyes described as the “SEABA 12” will be pulled from their respective teams two weeks before the tournament.
The Fuel Masters would have liked to have on their fold the Fil-Canadian shooter, whose confidence seemed to have risen after being selected as the Most Valuable Player Cagayan de Oro and Lucena legs of the PBA All-Star Week, subsequently leading to his entry to the Gilas lineup.
“He’s a rookie vet, he’s played overseas and knows the international game. Can’t go wrong with Matt,” Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia said of Wright, who he also coached last year when the Westports Malaysia Dragons won the ASEAN Basketball League title.
Vanguardia is hoping that the rest of the team would pick up the slack in Wright’s absence, even singling out veteran forward Willy Wilson as the one who needs to deliver.
Wilson is averaging 3.4 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Fuel Masters this conference.
“We haven’t felt his presence since last conference, he’s been sick or injured. It’s about time he shows up,” said Vanguardia of the 13-year veteran.
Wright is to miss today’s game and Friday’s encounter with the GlobalPort Batang Pier before the league takes another break for the SEABA competition.
Phoenix is in dire need of victories as it sits in eighth place with a 3-4 record. But momentum is on the Fuel Masters after they pulled off a shock 94-86 triumph over the Alaska Aces last April 22.
Despite Wright’s absence, Phoenix still has its energetic import Jameel McKay, who frustrated the Aces for 42 points and 22 rebounds in his best performance of the conference.
They are up against a Meralco side that will see action for the first time in 17 days. The last time the Bolts played was last April 16 when they turned back the Blackwater Elite, 102-91.
Winless NLEX battles struggling Blackwater in the first game at 4:15 p.m. as they look to overcome their slumps in the tournament.