By JONAS TERRADO
Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Meralco vs Kia
7 p.m. – GlobalPort vs San Miguel
Defending champion San Miguel seeks a strong showing before a big showdown with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel this weekend as it faces streaking GlobalPort tonight in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The league-leading Beermen stake their unbeaten run in the 7 p.m. contest against a Batang Pier team buoyed by morale-boosting back-to-back victories despite a 0-2 start and still missing the services of top star Terrence Romeo.
Chris Ross and the rest of the Beermen are also shifting their focus back on staying perfect in the season-opening conference after Friday’s 109-98 win over NLEX was marred by allegations that Ross was a recipient of a racial slur courtesy of Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao.
The league found no evidence of such claims but Guiao was fined P11,000 for flashing a dirty finger and using a profane language while Ross was asked to pay P2,600 for two technical fouls he incurred in the game.
Coach Leo Austria is expected to once again give significant minutes to his bench players, a change in philosophy after spending most of the Beermen’s run of five championships since 2014 giving heavy minutes to Ross, June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter.
Von Pessumal, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Brian Heruela have capitalized on the opportunities in most of the games this conference while veterans Yancy de Ocampo and Billy Mamaril have been given minor appearances whenever Fajardo is given time to rest.
“What we’re doing right now is maging deeper yung rotation ng team kasi I know na sooner or later mararamdaman ng mga starters ko yung wear and tear, and I hope na magkaroon na ng kumpiyansa yung bench,” Austria said.
San Miguel is not treating GlobalPort as a sparring partner before Sunday’s battle with Ginebra, also at the Big Dome, with the Batang Pier coming off wins over Rain or Shine and Blackwater behind Stanley Pringle, Sean Anthony and Kelly Nabong.
Batang Pier coach Pido Jarencio’s trio will have their work cut out this time with the Beermen have plenty of players capable of limiting their production.
Meanwhile, Kia eyes another victory following the end of a 16-game skid, taking on struggling Meralco in the 4:30 p.m. opener.
The Picanto finally broke the dryspell Saturday when they stunned the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94, at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The Bolts, on the other hand, have dropped three in a row, including Sunday’s 99-81 setback to TNT KaTropa at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City in a contest where they allowed 18 three-pointers.