Meralco will try to move closer to grabbing a twice-to-beat incentive in the next round as it battles Phoenix at the resumption of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup today at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts will be gunning for their seventh win versus the Fuel Masters in their 7 p.m. encounter right after the opening match between Blackwater and NLEX at 4:15 p.m.
Meralco is currently No.2 with a 6-1 win-loss record behind the unbeaten San Miguel Beer (5-0).
Bolts head coach Norman Black said the All-Star Week allowed his players to take the needed rest especially forward Cliff Hodge, who missed the team’s last three games because of a calf injury.
“I’m not sure how the 17-day break will affect us but we are healthy and ready to get back on the court,” said Black, adding that the return of Hodge boosts their frontline and defense as well.
Black added their defense will be tested especially against Fuel Masters’ import Jameel McKay, who notched a career-high 42 points and 22 rebounds in their 94-86 win over Alaska.
“Our focus on defense will try to slow down their import in the post and to control our defensive boards,” said Black.
Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia has the same concern against the Bolts, who will be led by the 6’10 import Alex Stepheson.
Stepheson is averaging 18 points and 22 rebounds per game and is providing Meralco the inside advantage in the tournament.
“Every game now is a playoff game. There is simply no room for error,” said Vanguardia. “We have to keep Stepheson out from getting those rebounds.”
The Fuel Masters, who are holding a 3-4 slate, will miss the services of Filipino-Canadian rookie Matthew Wright, who was included in the final roster of the Gilas Pilipinas for the Southeast Asia Basketball Association Championship.
Meanwhile, the Elite will try to end a two-game slide against the Road Warriors, who are still winless after seven matches.
“We will play our very best to get a win and boost our chances of making it to the playoffs,” said Blackwater coach Leo Isaac, whose team is holding a 1-6 win-loss record.