Erstwhile leader Meralco shoots for solo lead when it faces an upbeat Blackwater squad in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Commissioner’s Cup today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Bolts will try to stop a two-game losing skid when they meet the Elite in the first game at 4:15 p.m. before the 7 p.m. second game between the Star Hotshots and the GlobalPort Batang Pier.
“You know in this kind of tournament, you can’t relax even against Mahindra and Blackwater. They are also playing competitive basketball,” Meralco coach Norman Black told The Manila Times in a phone interview on Thursday. “We made some adjustment particularly in our defense.”
The Bolts suffered back-to-back losses against San Miguel Beer and Northern Luzon Expressway. They are sharing the top spot with Alaska with a similar 5-2 win-loss record.
“Blackwater is a good offensive team especially with import Malcolm Rhett, so we have to find a way to stop them,” he added. “We have to play tough defense on their locals too because most of them are good shooters.”
Meralco’s import Arinze Onuaku, who averaged 20 points and led all imports in rebounding with 19.4 average boards in the last seven games, will anchor the team’s frontline together with veteran big men Reynel Hugnatan and John Ferriols and hardworking forward Cliff Hodge.
Meralco will also lean on swingman Jared Dillinger, rookies Chris Newsome and Baser Amer, Jimmy Alapag, Kenneth Bono, Anjo Caram and Bryan Faundo.
“That’s our goal; to regain the top spot, but what important is to win as many as we can,” said Black. “We still have few games left and, as what I said, we must win them to get into the higher playoff spot.”
After losing to crowd-favorite Barangay Ginebra last week, the Elite are expected to bounce back and improve their 3-4 win-loss record.
Import Malcolm Rhett, who averaged 21 points, 15 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.0 steals in the last seven games, will lead the Elite’s charge along with local players Carlo Lastimosa, Reil Cervantes, Mike Cortez, rookie Arthur Dela Cruz and big man JP Erram.
The Star Hotshots, meanwhile, will try to claim their third straight win against GlobalPort.
The Hotshots are holding a 3-4 card highlighted by their back-to-back victories against Talk ‘N Text and Phoenix Petroleum.
The Hotshots will lean on replacement import Ricardo Ratliffe with the support of Peter June Simon, James Yap, Mark Barroca, Allein Maliksi, Rafi Reavis and Ian Sanggalang.
The Batang Pier, who are now staying at the bottom of team standings with a 2-4 win-loss record, will bank on import Shawn Taggart, Joseph Yeo, Anthony Jay Washington, Paul Taha, Keith Jensen, Rico Maierhofer and Billy Mamaril.