by JONAS TERRADO
Game Today (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
8 p.m. – Saigon vs Alab Pilipinas
(Alab Pilipinas leads series 1-0)
San Miguel Alab Pilipinas goes for a sweep of the Saigon Heat on the road as their best-of-three ASEAN Basketball League quarterfinal series shifts tonight at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Alab is favored to close out the series in the 7 p.m. local time (8 p.m. Manila time) match, though coach Jimmy Alapag expects things to be difficult despite the perception of having the momentum over the Vietnamese squad, which they had beaten three times this season.
Alapag and company took Game 1, 110-100, in front of a favorable environment at The Arena in San Juan last Sunday, but repeating over Saigon could be easier said than done with the Heat having one of the most boisterous home fans in the league.
Physical play is also expected to reach fever pitch after several mild skirmishes marred the final moments of the series opener.
Another victory will put Alab in a best-of-three semifinal series against defending champion Hong Kong Eastern, the second-best team in the eliminations.
Imports Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman, reigning Local Most Valuable Player Ray Parks Jr. and Lawrence Domingo lead the charge while Josh Urbiztondo could finally see action after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury.
What favors Alab is its depth despite the absence of Urbiztondo and Rico Maierhofer, who is likely to miss most of the playoffs due to an MCL strain on his right knee.
Saigon’s bid to stay alive rest on the shoulders of American center Maxie Esho, Jamaican guard Akeem Scott, Fil-American Mikey Williams, Thai-American Moses Morgan and Vietnamese-American David Arnold as the team usually gives these five men heavy minutes.
The Heat will also try to stay alive without their Canadian coach Kyle Julius, who was suspended for the remainder of the quarterfinals after being ejected in Game 1 for two technical fouls.