SMB, NLEX eye bonus; NorthPort seeks survival

Photo by Rio Deluvio

Games Wednesday:

(Philsports Arena)

3 p.m. – NorthPort vs TNT

5:45 p.m. – NLEX vs San Miguel

A pair of action-packed encounters gets underway as San Miguel Beer and NLEX jockey for playoff position while NorthPort fights for survival heading into the final stretch of the elimination round of the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup on Wednesday at the Philsports Arena.

The Beermen and the Road Warriors collide at 5:45 p.m. while the Batang Pier aim to stay alive when they battle a red-hot TNT Tropang Giga squad in the 3 p.m. curtain-raiser.

Already assured of a twice-to-beat incentive in the next round with a league-leading 8-1 card, the Tropang Giga aim for a strong finish to extend their impressive six straight victories.

But winning over a desperate Batang Pier side will be easier said than done as the Tropang Giga are coming off an almost three-week break after competing in the East Asia Super League Champions Week in Japan.

Together with the Beermen, the Tropang Giga got eliminated early after losing both of their matches but it will hardly matter as they are still tipped to go all out despite feeling the pinch brought by their non-stop campaign.

TNT Tropang Giga coach Jojo Lastimosa said they are looking for a convincing win that will gauge their readiness for the playoffs.

“We see this game as a gauge of how ready we are for the playoffs,” said Lastimosa, who took over the coaching role as Chot Reyes was instructed to focus on guiding Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Basketball World Cup this August.

“I am expecting rustiness in the group but I want to see a team that might struggle but will still win.”

True enough, the Batang Pier will not easily roll over and die.

Holding a 3-7 card, NorthPort are desperately needing a win that will knot it with idle Phoenix Super LPG for the eighth and last playoff spot.

Should they shock the Tropang Giga, the Batang Pier and the Fuel Masters will play in a sudden-death duel to determine who gets the chance to advance to the next round.

But for veteran Arwind Santos, their game against TNT will also be a good chance to help the Batang Pier after he missed their first five games of the season-ending conference.

“I’m always motivated because I love the game,” Santos said.

“I always bring that winning attitude every game whichever team we’re facing. Although I am not yet 100 percent, I’ll do my best to help my team so we can stay alive and get into the playoffs.”
The battle between the Beermen and the Road Warriors will also be interesting.

Although the Beermen hold the third-best record in the eliminations with 7-2, the Road Warriors are not far behind with 7-3, making their encounter very crucial in their bids to clinch the last two playoff incentives.

How the Beermen can make their push deeper to the playoffs without their main man in the middle — six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo – will also be put to a test.

Fajardo will be sidelined for the next five weeks after hurting the medial collateral ligament in his knee during a game against the Ryukyu Golden Kings in the EASL Champions Week.

With that, import Cameron Clark, Mo Tautuaa and veteran forward Vic Manuel will need to step up big to hold the fort against a determined Road Warriors squad that is eager to bounce back and crack a playoff bonus for the first time under head coach Frankie Lim.

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