THE AMERICAN imports of the AirAsia Philippine Patriots are all pumped up as the semifinal series of the Asean Basketball League kicks off this weekend.
Anthony Johnson said he’s back in top shape after playing through a groin injury the past two weeks, while Nakiea Miller vowed to stay aggressive in defense.
The Patriots, the No. 2 seed after finishing the eliminations with a 16-5 record, will clash with the third-ranked Indonesia Warriors (12-9) in Game 1 this Sunday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
San Miguel, the league leader with a 17-4 card, will battle the No. 4 Westports Malaysia (11-10) in the other best-of-three series on Saturday at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena.
Both Philippines squads hold a homecourt advantage as an incentive for finishing 1-2 in the triple-round eliminations.
“We are ready for the playoffs and I will do everything to help my team win,” said Johnson, the second-best scorer in the league with an average of 24.3 points.
“[Johnson] is fully recovered and Nakiea is now fully focused for the playoff round against his former team,” said Louie Gonzales, the top deputy of Patriots head coach Glenn Capacio. “Everybody is well motivated.”
Miller, who was temporarily released before the Patriots signed him anew late in the season, now leads the league in blocks with an average of 2.84 per game.
“Defense, rebounds and fastbreak with the extra pass will be the key to winning the series,” said Miller.
But the Patriots—the inaugural champions co-owned by Tony Boy Cojuangco and Harbour Centre CEO and president Mikee Romero—think they have a more talented local crew than the Warriors.
“Local-wise, we’re much deeper than the Indonesians,” said Gonzales. “With imports trying to cancel each other out, our locals must really step up.”