It’s going to be a war as Meralco and NLEX clash for a victory that would be crucial to their respective quarterfinal bids in the 46th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup today at the Don Honorio Ventura State University (DHVSU) Gym in Bacolor Pampanga.
Action starts at 3 p.m. before the collision of San Miguel Beer and also-ran Alaska in the 6 p.m. encounter of this tourney that is being played under a semi-bubble format.
Both the Bolts and NLEX are in must-win mode.
Sitting at the second spot behind TNT Tropang Giga, Meralco fashions a 7-2 win-loss record and needs a victory that would assured it of a twice-to-beat edge in the next round.
The Bolts are coming off a morale-boosting 104-97 that dealt Blackwater the longest losing streak in league history at 19 over the weekend.
In that game, Allein Maliksi carried the cudgels with 21 points while Raymond Almazan had a double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Bolts, who led as many as 29 points in the third period.
“We still have two remaining games against NLEX and Ginebra and winning these will be important to us,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, who will welcome the return of some key players.
“Chris (Newsome), Cliff (Hodge) and Toto (Raymar Jose) are now allowed to join us and they have already started practicing yesterday. We’re going to see how well they are because they have been off for a few weeks.”
“Hopefully, they can help us in our next games.”
But plucking the crucial win would be easier said than done.
The Road Warriors, who are at sixth place with a 5-5 card, are also in dire need of a victory to hitch a ride to the next round.
Aside from the Tropang Giga and the Bolts, already safely in the next round are Magnolia (8-3), San Miguel (6-4) and Rain or Shine (6-5), leaving NLEX, NorthPort (5-5) and reigning champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (4-6), Phoenix (4-7), Terrafirma (4-7) and Alaska (3-6) in a mad dash for the last three quarterfinal seats entering the last two days of the eliminations.
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said their fate depends on the outcomes of the next couple of games, but they still need to win to secure a better placing in the playoffs.
“Well, we’re just trying to get into the next round,” said Guiao following their 90-73 win over the Bossing last Thursday despite the absence of Kiefer Ravena.
With Ravena still yet to return from Japan, JR Quiñahan has been carrying the leadership cudgels while Kevin Alas, Jericho Cruz and Don Trollano man the perimer.
“We don’t know how far or what place we can get, but this will be very crucial. Our next game against Meralco will be very important in terms of our placing.”
“A lot will still depend on the remaining games. We’re trying to survive, the next game will be big.”