4:15 p.m. – Blackwater vs Meralco
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs TNT KaTropa
Meralco Bolts test Blackwater Elite.
Two teams from the MVP group look to begin the new season on a bright note after absorbing playoff disappointments last season when they face separate rivals tonight in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
TNT KaTropa battles Rain or Shine at 7 p.m. following Meralco’s meeting with Blackwater at 4:15 p.m. as they enter the all-Filipino campaign eager to improve on last season’s performance and give title contenders San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra a run for their money.
TNT absorbed a Commissioner’s Cup finals loss to San Miguel last season while suffering semifinal exits in the two other conferences to mark the debut of Nash Racela as PBA coach.
Racela, the witty and outspoken leader of the TNT franchise, is likely to enter his sophomore season with plenty to prove, along with his main weapons in Jayson Castro, Rookie of the Year RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Kelly Williams and Mo Tautuaa.
First-round draft picks Sidney Onwubere and Mac Tallo could likely play major roles in TNT’s drive to win its first championship since the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup.
Meanwhile, Meralco is coming off a second straight finals loss in the Governors’ Cup, losing to Ginebra in seven games that ended last October in front of 54,000 fans at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
That loss came with Best Import Allen Durham leading the charge for Meralco. The Bolts also made the playoffs of the Commissioner’s Cup with Alex Stepheson manning the middle.
With no imports to field, the Bolts face a tough task at making the playoffs, having won just four games in the last two all-Filipino tournaments.
Meralco coach Norman Black will have Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger, Cliff Hodge, Chris Newsome, Ranidel de Ocampo and Reynel Hugnatan back in the fold while adding Nico Salva, Jason Ballesteros and KG Canaleta from free agency.
Rain or Shine and Blackwater are out to play spoiler and launch their own campaigns in a big way.
Under coach Caloy Garcia, the Elasto Painters failed to make past the quarterfinals in all three conferences last season while the Elite nearly appeared in their first semifinals, losing to the Bolts in the Governors’ Cup quarterfinals.
The Elasto Painters are hoping to relive their glory days having won two titles with Yeng Guiao as head coach.
The team’s failure to play in the semis also saddened beefy center Beau Belga, saying: “Nakaka-miss ding maglaro sa finals, even in semis.”