Meralco aims for a third straight victory when it faces Alaska while Blackwater is out to stop a two-game losing skid today in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts, coming off back-to-back wins, will meet the Aces in the second game at 7 p.m. after the 4:15 p.m. opening match between the Blackwater Elite and the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Road Warriors.
After losing to Blackwater, Meralco won two straight games against NLEX and Talk ‘N Text.
“The game versus Alaska will test our ability to play against a quick fast team. Limiting turnovers versus their pressure defense and controlling our defensive rebounds will be the keys to the game for us,” said Meralco coach Norman Black via text message on Tuesday.
The Bolts with a 2-1 win-loss record, will be relying on rookie Ed Daquioag who posted 23 points during Meralco’s win over sister team Talk ‘N Text.
Center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Cliff Hodge, Reynel Hugnatan, Kelly Nabong, Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger and Chris Newsome will also lead the Bolts’ charge.
The Aces, on the other hand, are gunning for a second win after its 95-84 victory over the GlobalPort Batang Pier last December 7 behind the combined effort of Vic Manuel, Calvin Abueva and Chris Exciminiano.
“Meralco has moved into the upper echelon of the PBA. They are well coached, playing well, are big, and have added in talented wing men,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton.
“This game will be a particular challenge for us as they are so deep at the four to five spots while both of our centers are still injured. Big things for us in this game will be whether or not we can defend the entire play including the offensive rebounds.”
The Aces are holding a 1-2 win-loss record.
“They are +12/ game in rebounding, and with one of the best rebounders in the PBA in Cliff Hodge, playing the three mostly now instead of the four, we have got to be at our scrappiest.”
Besides Manuel and Abueva, Alaska will lean on Jayvee Casio, Chris Banchero, Dondon Hontiveros, Kevin Racal, Mike Magat, RJ Jazul and newcomer Jake Pascual in battling the Bolts.
Meanwhile, coach Leo Isaac of Blackwater said his team would give its 100 percent against NLEX after losing its last two games. The Elite hold a 2-2 win-loss record.
“We want to play smart and play with a lot of confidence,” said Isaac.
Blackwater will be relying on 2016 rookie top overall pick Mac Belo, Dennis Miranda, Arthur Dela Cruz, Kyle Pascual, Reil Cervantes, Ronald Pascual, Bambam Gamalinda, Raymond Aguilar, Ronjay Buenafe, Nards Pinto, James Sena and Ael Banal against the Road Warriors.
NLEX previously lost to the Star Hotshots and the Meralco Bolts for a 1-2 win-loss record.
“It is a must win game for us if we want to figure in the race this conference,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao. “The challenge is to step up defensively. I have not been happy with our defense the last two games.”
NLEX will lean on Sean Anthony, Carlo Lastimosa, Paul Asi Taulava, Eric Camson, Jonas Villanueva, Mac Baracael and Eman Monfort against Blackwater.
“We have the weapons offensively but I’m still looking for my players to make stops with some consistency,” he added. “Another rookie in Mac Belo is our biggest headache. We hope to make life difficult for him this time.”