Magnolia and Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) are both eyeing a third win when they clash in the main game of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 43 Philippine Cup tonight at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots and the Road Warriors, tied with identical 2-1 win-loss cards, collide at 7 p.m. right after the opening tussle between Alaska and the skidding Kia at 4:30 p.m.
Magnolia is coming off a 124-77 rout of the Picanto but head coach Chito Victolero expects a tough grind against NLEX, which saw its two-game winning run snapped by Phoenix.
“We need to have mental toughness for this game for 48 minutes. We expect a very physical game from start to finish so we really need to control our emotions and focus on our execution,” said Victolero, who drew 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds from Justin Melton in their last game against Kia.
“Our team defense is the key to winning this game,” he added.
Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee carried the scoring load for Magnolia in its first three games, both averaging 19.6 points and the lanky center notching 10 rebounds per contest.
NLEX is keen to rebound from a 95-102 loss to the Fuel Masters, the team’s first loss after a 2-0 start.
“We are trying to prepare against Paul (Lee) and Sangalang but they have a lot of offensive weapons that we need to contain like Peter June Simon, (Jio) Jalalon, (Mark) Barroca and Melton. Paul might be the best scorer but he knows how to get others involved too,” said Guiao.
“They routed Kia with their pressure defense so we have to prepare something for that. It shows how potent their defense is because they are very quick and can convert turnovers to points, so we have to minimize our turnovers,” he added.
After averaging 19 points in the first two games, No. 2 overall pick Kiefer Ravena was held down to just eight points on 4-of-13 shooting by the Phoenix’s defense last Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Aces try to follow up their 103-98 win over Meralco last Wednesday where Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel combined for 38 points to snap a two-game slide for a 1-2 mark.
The game against the 0-3 Picanto will be a nostalgic one for Alaska coach Alex Compton because he will be playing vs his former mentor Ricky Dandan.
“My rookie year in the MBA (Metropolitan Basketball Association) in 1998 in Manila Metrostar he (Dandan) was my first coach. I know what kind of basketball mind he has,” said Compton. “Kia is really absolutely a dangerous team.”
The Picanto, currently at the bottom of the standings, will enter the game with a 15-game losing streak dating back last conference, the longest losing streak in the last decade of the PBA.