By JONAS TERRADO
(Mall of Asia Arena)
4:30 p.m. – Meralco vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – Alaska vs NLEX
Alaska looks to build up on its massive win over the weekend and forge a tie with Rain or Shine for the lead when it takes on struggling NLEX tonight in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
All eyes will be on Vic Manuel, who will try to continue his impressive run of form this conference and give the Aces (6-1) their seventh straight win in the 7 p.m. contest with the Road Warriors.
Manuel is coming off a career-best 35 points in Alaska’s 103-99 win over Magnolia last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, hiking his status as the top local scorer with an average of 24.9 points while stepping up in the absence of suspended star Calvin Abueva and rookie Jeron Teng.
Abueva remains out because of an indefinite suspension handed by Alaska management for failing to show up in past practice sessions while Teng is still recovering from stab wounds sustained in a melee two weeks ago.
Even without two of perhaps the team’s biggest names, Alaska has managed to pull out victories with Manuel, import Antonio Campbell, Jvee Casio and Chris Banchero stepping up.
But coach Alex Compton is not letting his team feel comfortable against a Road Warriors squad that lost its last three games and near at the bottom of the standings with a 2-6 record.
The loss of rookie Kiefer Ravena to an 18-month FIBA suspension has been felt severely by NLEX, which is struggling to find someone who can compliment import Arnett Moultrie.
Facing off in the first game at 4:30 p.m. are Meralco, which is looking to catch up in the race for a twice-to-beat advantage, and Blackwater.
Meralco is aiming to tie TNT KaTropa at 6-2 with import Arinze Onuaku and top locals Baser Amer and Chris Newsome.
But the Bolts are also aching for more consistency despite their record, a week after surviving the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 103-100, in overtime.
Blackwater (1-8) is out of the running for a quarterfinals berth but is hoping to play with a sense of pride going into its final two games of the conference.