By Jonas Terrado
(Philippine Arena, Bulacan)
4:30 p.m. – Blackwater vs NLEX
6:45 p.m. – Ginebra vs Meralco
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and NLEX seek quarterfinal berths against teams in desperate modes today as the PBA Philippine Cup returns to the cavernous Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Ginebra battles Meralco at 6:45 p.m. in their first meeting since last season’s Governors’ Cup finals that saw the Kings beat the Bolts before more than 54,000 fans in the deciding seventh game.
NLEX goes for a fourth consecutive victory in the 4:30 p.m. curtain raiser against a Blackwater squad looking to barge into the top eight.
Both Ginebra and NLEX are tied for fifth at 5-4, Blackwater is in a logjam for seventh to ninth places with Phoenix and GlobalPort at 4-5 while Meralco cannot afford another setback with a 3-6 slate.
Ginebra has put aside a rough stretch of four losses in five matches with back-to-back victories at the expense of Kia (103-77) and TNT KaTropa (93-78) with LA Tenorio, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson leading the way to close in on the quarters berth.
Meralco, meanwhile, reeled the effects of playing minus an import, particularly last season’s Governors’ Cup import Allen Durham, as it failed to find the consistency since the eliminations began.
“It’s been a struggle for both teams since meeting in the finals,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “But we’re both playing better of late. We’ll have to find ways to cover all of them.”
NLEX moved on the verge of making the playoffs after beating Ginebra (81-78), Meralco (87-85) and Alaska (96-89) with rookie Kiefer Ravena leading the charge.
But the Road Warriors expect a tough matchup with the Elite, who led by Mike DiGregorio beat San Miguel (106-96) and Kia (95-76) in their last two matches.