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Rivalry renewed

Ian Suyu

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ALJON Mariano (left) and Ginebra stake their spotless card against an old foe in Meralco. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PBA

Games today:
(AUF Arena)
4:00 p.m. — Rain or Shine vs Northport
6:45 p.m. — Ginebra vs Meralco

CLARK — Bad blood is tipped to boil as bitter rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco collide in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup Sunday at the Angeles University Foundation (AUF) Arena powered by Smart 5G here.

Game time is at 6:45 p.m. with the Kings and the Bolts clashing for the first time since their bitter finals series in the import-flavored Governor’s Cup last year.

Also seeing action is Rain or Shine, which will shoot for a share of early lead when it tangles with Northport in the 4 p.m. appetizer of this explosive weekend double-header that is being played behind closed doors due to the threat of the novel coronavirus.

Red-hot TNT Tropang Giga remains on top of the standings following a massive 107-88 win over San Miguel Beer late Friday.

Poy Erram shone with a career-high 27 points, joining Roger Pogoy and Ray Parks in dropping their personal best in the Tropang Giga’s first three games in the early stretch of the season.

But all eyes will be on Ginebra and Meralco.

After figuring in a memorable finals encounter last December, the Kings and the Bolts will lock horns anew — this time in a different setup with a higher stake.

Unlike in the Governor’s Cup finale, Import Justin Brownlee and slotman Greg Slaughter are no longer around while Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio are still far from perfect shape for Ginebra, but head coach Tim Cone would be ready for whatever Norman Black would throw at them with young guns Aljon Mariano and Prince Caperal standing their grounds.

After all, a win over the Bolts would not only boost their morale heading into the final stretch of this compressed tournament, but would also give them a spot on top with idle TNT Tropang Giga.

“We know that they (Meralco) would be ready. The last time we met in the championship, they blew us out by 25 points in our first game,” said Cone, who will be stacked in what looms to be another fierce chess battle against his fellow grand-slam winner in Black.

“They will definitely be ready for us and we know that we have to match their intensity.”

Meralco, meanwhile, is blowing hot and cold.

After dropping a 98-116 loss to Phoenix Super LPG last Monday, the Bolts caught fire and crushed a crippled Alaska squad, 93-81, to post an even 1-1 win-loss card.

Against the Aces, Allein Maliksi delivered 17 points on a sizzling 6-of-9 shooting from the field while Baser Amer chipped in 15 points to join the Bolts’ well-balanced assault.

But the biggest story was the return of Raymond Almazan, who suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee in the finals against Ginebra.

Almazan played only 10 minutes with five points and five rebounds, but his mere presence rallied the Bolts down the stretch.

“Ginebra is a big team and rebounding and defense has been their keys. We have to play as a team offensively, move the ball left and right and make them work,” Black said.

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