By Jonas Terrado
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – Alaska vs Phoenix
7 p.m. – Globalport vs TNT KaTropa
Alaska and TNT KaTropa, sharing identical 4-1 records, see action for the first time in almost two weeks when they face two struggling teams today in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Coming off their first loss of the conference, the Aces face a Phoenix Fuel Masters team hungry for redemption in the first game at 4:15 p.m. before the KaTropa meet the Globalport Batang Pier at 7 p.m.
Alaska, which hasn’t played since a bad start led to a 99-91 loss to Meralco last April 8 at the Mall of Asia Arena, is determined to get back on the winning track before the All-Star break.
The Aces fell behind by double digits in the first half that allowed themselves to play catch up the rest of the way.
Coach Alex Compton is bracing for a tough outing against the Fuel Masters, who have lost two straight games, including a heartbreaking 96-94 loss to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters last April 11.
In that game, Phoenix squandered a 17-point third quarter lead and eight with less than two minutes remaining in the contest, thus dropping to eighth place at 2-4.
“Phoenix is a better team than their record indicates,” said Compton. “I thought they were excellent for most of the Rain or Shine game, and Rain or Shine just had a great rally at the end.
Compton hopes his import Cory Alexander would fare well against Phoenix counterpart Jameel McKay, who is one of the few bright spots for the Fuel Masters with averages of 23.5 points and 18.3 rebounds.
Calvin Abueva is expected to see action for Alaska despite sustaining a cut on lip during practice with Gilas Pilipinas last Monday even as the Aces are expected to be without some of their key players like Vic Manuel and Chris Banchero due to injuries.
Meanwhile, TNT’s last match came on April 9 when it hacked out an 86-84 win over a lowly Mahindra side at the Mall of Asia Arena. The KaTropa had to weather the tough stand of the Floodbuster to remain unbeaten after dropping their opening assignment to Meralco.
The KaTropa look for a positive showing ahead of Sunday’s game with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, which is off to an impressive start at 3-1.
Racela has kept harping on TNT’s inconsistencies despite the good record, saying after the win over Mahindra that “I was telling the team that this is the time to build, develop good habits during the game. Obviously we weren’t able to do that. A lot of mistakes pa rin.”
Globalport hasn’t played since defeating NLEX, 85-82, for its first victory after four straight losses last April 11.
The Batang Pier hope to use that victory as a momentum-builder, with ace scorer Terrence Romeo, backcourt partner Stanley Pringle and import Malcolm White expected to lead the way.