(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – TNT vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – Star vs NLEX
Winless NLEX at crossroads.
The Star Hotshots look to preserve their unbeaten record behind their import Tony Mitchell when they face the winless NLEX Road Warriors today in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Mitchell is expected to lead the Hotshots’ bid to remain as one of three teams which have yet to absorb a loss in the midseason conference after posting double-double numbers in victories over the Phoenix Fuel Masters and GlobalPort Batang Pier.
Local support has also been evident, something that the Chito Victolero-mentored Hotshots hope to see in the 7 p.m. match with the struggling Road Warriors, whose struggles dating back to the Philippine Cup have continued after three straight losses to open the tournament.
Mitchell has shown the pedigree that earned him a short stint with the Detroit Pistons in the NBA, averaging 23.0 points and 16.5 rebounds in the 101-82 win over Phoenix last March 22 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and the 103-77 rout of GlobalPort three days later in Tubod, Lanao del Norte.
More that Mitchell’s fine form are the contributions of locals powered by PBA Press Corps Player of the Week Mark Barroca, who is averaging 12.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
Also impressive are rookie Jio Jalalon (9.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists), Justin Melton (8.0 points), Aldrech Ramos (9.0 points, 8.0 rebounds) and Allein Maliksi (11.0 points), Ian Sangalang (9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds) and Peter June Simon (10.0 points), filling the void in lieu of limited minutes by Paul Lee and Marc Pingris missing the first two games due to an injury.
While Star is on the right track, it seems that NLEX couldn’t figure out its struggles after an 89-81 loss exactly a week ago to Mahindra. In that game, the Road Warriors were terrible on the offensive end, making just 2-of-26 from three-point range.
NLEX has lost its last seven games that marred coach Yeng Guiao’s first season at the helm following a memorable spell with Rain or Shine.
Meanwhile, TNT KaTropa parades its new import Donte Greene in the 4:15 p.m. opener opposite struggling Blackwater.
Greene makes his debut after the KaTropa split their first two games with former NBA veteran Lou Amundson. In preparation for his first game, Greene spent time training with Gilas Pilipinas last Monday at the Meralco gym.
Blackwater is also 0-3 to start the conference and recently acquired KG Canaleta in a trade with GlobalPort to add depth to a team decimated by injuries.
Art de la Cruz is expected to miss the conference after he raptured his Achilles while training with Gilas Pilipinas while rookie forward Mac Belo is expected to be out after re-injuring his left knee.