By JONAS TERRADO
Game Today (Cuneta Astrodome)
5 p.m. – Ginebra vs NLEX
Greg Slaughter returns from a three-game absence today as Barangay Ginebra San Miguel looks to capitalize on last weekend’s comeback win over San Miguel when it battles struggling NLEX in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Coach Tim Cone said Slaughter will see limited action in the 5 p.m. Petron Saturday Special, hoping to slowly bring him back to top form after a hamstring injury forced the 7-foot center to sit on the sidelines during Ginebra’s losses to Alaska and Phoenix and in Sunday’s 100-96 win over San Miguel.
“Greg will return to the lineup with a minute restriction as he continues to work himself back to shape,” Cone said yesterday.
Slaughter’s presence is expected to boost the Ginebra squad that has seen its confidence rise after rallying from a 16-point deficit to hand the defending Philippine Cup champion Beermen their first loss this conference.
LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar are expected to lead Ginebra’s quest to improve its 3-3 record and tie idle TNT KaTropa for fourth place in the team standings.
Raymond Aguilar and Jervy Cruz, the unlikely heroes of Ginebra’s victory the last time, are likely to get heavy minutes despite having Slaughter back while new acquisition Prince Caperal may get some action if needed.
Caperal, who stands at 6-foot-7, was signed by Ginebra after Kia placed him on the unrestricted free agent list earlier this week.
“Big game for us to see if we can create some much needed momentum this conference,” Cone said. “It’s important for us not to relax after beating SMB. We have to keep our energy and intensity up.”
Momentum is something NLEX has failed to take advantage earlier this conference when it won its first two games – all in December.
The Road Warriors have not won a game since and absorbed their fourth consecutive loss at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 97-86, last Jan. 26. That prompted coach Yeng Guiao and the rest of the crew to hold a lengthy meeting after that contest.
“I guess our problem in the last few games has been giving up extra possessions,” Guiao said. “We have always lost on rebounding and turnovers. That means, if you lose rebounding and turnovers, you lose opportunities. And you combine them both, that was the reason I felt we have those four losses. We cannot do that against Ginebra.”
Serving as a side note to the match is NLEX rookie Kiefer Ravena’s first match against the league’s crowd favorites where his resolve will be tested against the talented Kings squad.