By TITO S. TALAO
Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. Barako Bull vs Ginebra
6:30 p.m. Talk `N Text vs Rain or Shine
Manila, Philippines – Just when the gray skies are clearing up for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, ominous dark clouds have again gathered in the horizon.
Superstar Mark Caguioa twisted his right knee with three minutes left in Friday’s game with the Maralco Bolts, gingerly walking to the locker room with what Kings officials feared could be a torn miniscus ligament or MCL.
Inside the dugout, Caguioa’s knee was immobilized and wrapped in ice to avert swelling. He underwent an MRI exam yesterday morning and had the injury attended to by famed orthopedic surgeon Raul Canlas.
No official word yet has come from Ginebra management on the extent of Caguioa’s injury.
During his brief absence that evening, the Kings weathered a scorching comeback by Meralco (with its own version of Hack-AShaq) to pull off an 84-81 victory for their third straight win.
The Kings led by 21 at one point in the second quarter but fell prey to 25 turnovers overall and 18 missed free throws, 10 by import Venon Macklin who the Bolts transformed into a free throw-shooting counterpart of Shaquille O’Neal.
Fouled successively in the closing minutes, Macklin, a former Detroit Pistons player, went a nightmarish 5 of 15 from the line throughout and turned the ball over seven times.
Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua was adamant after the game in saying that he never entertained the thought of pulling out Macklin when Meralco went on its Hack-A-Mack spree.
“I told him `I won’t take you out. We will live and die with you on the free throw line,’“ said Chua.
Ginebra is now on a four-way tie for fifth place with surging Air21, Meralco, and San Mig Coffee.
Now the Kings face the team partly responsible for bringing their confidence back, the Barako Bull Energy Cola who the Kings routed, 93-72, on four weeks ago for their first win.
Ginebra won three of its next four games after that while Barako has recently lost five straight and sits at 9th place with a 3-6 card.
Taking on Barako Bull minus Caguioa could be less of a breeze for Ginebra this time though. Gametime is 4:15 p.m. followed by the blockbuster encounter between Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine.
The Elasto Painters are in a share of second place with Petron on 6-3 slates, while the Tropang Texters are at solo fourth with a 5-4 card.
Both are coming off impressive victories: Rain or Shine from a 103-93 win over Barako Bull last Wednesday and Talk ‘N Text from an incredible 93-85 come-from- behind overtime thriller over Petron two days ago.
In that game, the Tropang Texters rallied from a six-point deficit inside the last minute to force the extension on Jimmy Alapag’s parking lot 3-point shot with 2.7 seconds left. TNT then shut out the Blaze Boosters in the extra period, only the second time in PBA history that a team had gone scoreless in overtime.
Playing at presstime at the Smart Araneta Coliseum are Air21 against Globalport, and league-leader Alaska versus San Mig Coffee.