by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
4:30 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs Rain or Shine
6:45 p.m. – Alaska vs Ginebra
Rain or Shine tries to boost its chances of securing a twice-to-beat advantage while Barangay Ginebra San Miguel goes for a third straight win when they face separate rivals in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
The Elasto Painters shoot for their eighth win in nine games against well-rested TNT KaTropa in the 4:30 p.m. opener before Ginebra meets the Alaska Aces at 6:45 p.m.
James Yap, Maverick Ahanmisi, Norbert Torres, Rey Nambatac and Beau Belga lead Rain or Shine’s quest to seal its sixth straight win and regain sole possession of first place after Phoenix Pulse produced two victories this week.
Both teams are tied at the top with identical 7-1 slates.
Coach Caloy Garcia, however, could miss the services of Raymond Almazan after the lanky center sprained his ankle during Gilas Pilipinas’ preparation for the final window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
Almazan was forced to miss Gilas’ wins over Qatar and Kazakhstan that cemented the country’s berth in FIBA’s biggest competition.
TNT will play its first game since an 80-75 overtime triumph over Magnolia last Feb. 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
While rust could play a factor for the KaTropa, Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy are coming off hard-fought battles for Gilas in the qualifiers.
Also fresh from national team duties is Japeth Aguilar, who will try to keep Ginebra’s winning ways and improve its third-best 3-2 slate.
Aguilar is averaging 18.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for Ginebra this conference and also played a key role in giving Gilas passage to the World Cup in China.
Greg Slaughter and Gilas pool member Scottie Thompson are also expected to deliver even as LA Tenorio will play his 595th straight game which will move him one shy of tying Alvin Patrimonio’s record.