Meralco and Alaska, squads which were practically under the radar during the break, clash for a share of the early lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup eliminations today at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Unheralded crews have gotten off to strong starts, with Barako Bull setting the pace with two straight victories.
The Aces and the Bolts try to stay unbeaten in their 5:15 p.m. clash and join the Energy at the top, even as powerhouses Petron Blaze and San Mig Coffee try to rebound from tournament-opening setbacks in the 7:30 p.m. game.
Meralco and Alaska figured in a tug-of-war for the services of Mike Dawson, who ultimately landed with the Bolts and made a huge impact by scoring 37 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a 99-92 upset of another pre-tournament favorite, Talk ‘N Text.
“If there is one team that I think is underrated, it’s Meralco,” Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said. “They have, in my mind, a Best Import candidate and added athletes in Vic Manuel and Rey Guevarra.”
Alaska also hurdled its opening foe by coming back from three points down with 24 seconds left last Saturday to pip Rain or Shine.
Despite the presence of a hardworking import in Robert Dozier, rookie Calvin Abueva epitomized the hard-nosed Alaska stand by coming up with gems on both ends to preserve an 83-81 victory.
The 6-foot-2 Abueva hit a triple and then swatted away an attempt by 7-3 Rain or Shine import Bruno Sundov on the other end that led to the game-winning basket by Cyrus Baguio.
And against the Bolts, the Aces would have to clamp down hard on Dawson while being careful on giving up perimeter shots to Mac Cardona and Ronjay Buenafe.
Meanwhile, Matt Rogers finally makes his debut for the defending champion Mixers, giving coach Tim Cone a complete lineup as they try to pin a second loss on the Boosters.
Rogers did not see action in the Mixers’ 75-79 loss to the Energy after going in and out of the hospital because of food poisoning two days before the game.
“I guess we can throw that first game out the window,” Cone said. “It almost seems like we’re having a second opening game.”
Petron also fell, 92-94, to Globalport in the inaugurals despite being in the top three of practically every pre-tournament survey.