Unbeaten Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) guns for a third consecutive win and solo lead as it goes up against Phoenix at the resumption of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 43 Philippine Cup at 4:30 p.m. today at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors are currently tied with reigning champion San Miguel Beer on top, both teams carrying identical 2-0 win-loss records.
In the main 7 p.m. game, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (1-0) battles GlobalPort (0-1).
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao is expecting a tight defensive encounter against the retooled Fuel Masters. Guiao is not expecting a blowout game tonight like their previous wins over Kia (119-115) and GlobalPort (115-104).
“Phoenix is a strong opponent and they have the manpower to upset any team,” said Guiao, referring to his former players Jeff Chan, RJ Jazul, Matthew Wright and top rookie Jason Perkins.
“We have to execute well our offense against this highly defense-oriented team,” he added.
Second overall pick rookie Kiefer Ravena has been impressive for the Road Warriors in their first two games, averaging 19 points, 8.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds.
Phoenix is coming off a 125-102 rout of Kia last December 27 and head coach Louie Alas said NLEX would be a big test for them.
“This is a marathon tournament. You would feel competitive when you already faced NLEX because they’re a formidable team—almost an elite team. So, we have to be consistent with our defensive standpoint,” said Alas.
Perkins, the fourth overall pick of the Fuel Masters in the last rookie draft, is averaging 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the first two games while Wright’s 13.5 points average is powering the 1-1 Phoenix squad.
Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel shoots for its second straight win after thrashing Magnolia (89-78) on Christmas Day at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
But Grand Slam coach Tim Cone knew it is not going to be easy coming from a long break and especially against a talented GlobalPort squad.
“Another long break to overcome. We are thankful for it but still it is always hard to stay sharp through it. We are still missing key guys,” said Cone, referring to his injured players Sol Mercado (ankle), Joe Devance (foot) and Art Dela Cruz (Achilles tendon).
“But we have prepared to play without them and feel good about the way we have practiced through the break.”
The Gin Kings, who are holding a 1-0 win-loss record, need to contain GlobalPort’s Stanley Pringle who had an explosive 33-point, 10- rebound performance in their loss to NLEX on Christmas Day.
“GlobalPort has always been a tough match up for us because of the quickness of Pringle and (Terrence) Romeo. We’ll need a good job of containing them,” added Cone.
Romeo, who is recovering from a knee injury, remains doubtful to play for the 0-1 Batang Pier.