PBA to play Christmas Day games at Philippine Arena
With its usual venues already committed to hosting other events in the coming Christmas season, the PBA has deemed it best to take a shot at its all-time live attendance record by bringing the blockbuster game of the Philippine Cup eliminations to the cavernous Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
There were a total of 52,612 fans that flocked to the ultra-modern venue during opening day two seasons ago as matches pitting then-newcomers Blackwater and KIA preceded the Barangay Ginebra-Talk ‘N Text contest.
Not only was that doubleheader highlighted by the Gin Kings, it also featured Manny Pacquiao in his professional basketball debut as he inspired the then-Enforcers to a tight win over the Elite.
This year, on Dec. 25, the PBA takes Blackwater and Mahindra, KIA’s new name, back to the Philippine Arena as they serve as appetizer to the biggest draw of the elimination round, the Ginebra-Star clash.
The Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao and Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay have been the usual venues for big games of the PBA.
But with both venues having booked Christmas-inspired shows for the last two weeks of next month, the league was left with no option but to take the interesting twinbill to Bulacan.
Since that first win, Mahindra has performed better than Blackwater, qualifying to the playoffs in last season’s Governors’ Cup with a workhorse of an import in James White and an under-rated local crew that rose to the challenge.
The same cannot be said of Blackwater, which finished dead last in four of its first six conferences and hasn’t gone past any elimination round.
With a 2-0 start, though, and after Mahindra dealt away its better players in strange trades in the offseason, the Elite will definitely come into that games as the favorites, especially with the way top overall Draft choice Mac Belo is playing.
Belo, the finals MVP for Far Eastern in the UAAP last season, is averaging 21 points and 7.5 rebounds a contest in his first two games and was a critical figure in victories over Phoenix Petroleum and Meralco.
Mahindra, meanwhile, was on the ugly end of the first rout of the tournament as the Floodbusters were waylaid by GlobalPort. Mahindra shipped out Aldrech Ramos, KG Canaleta and Bradwyn Guinto in the off-season.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, is still listed as the head coach of the Floodbuster and is in the active roster as a player. It could be the venue for the eight-division world boxing champion to get his cage career going again.
Ginebra and Star remain to be the two most popular teams in the land and their Christmas Day match-up will feature promising rookies Kevin Ferrer and Jio Jalalon, though both will be coming off contrasting first games for the Gin Kings and the Hotshots, respectively.
Ferrer, the ex-Tiger from Santo Tomas, had just three points in a 108-103 loss to TNT KaTropa on Sunday night, while Jalalon, the only homegrown player in the NCAA’s Mythical First Team last season, had 11 in a losing cause against defending champion San Miguel.