AIR21, bannered by the most impressive import on paper, guns for a share of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup lead against Talk ‘N Text Friday even as Barangay Ginebra, forced to use original import Herbert Hill, clashes with dangerous Globalport at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Express and the Tropang Texters lock horns in the 5:15 p.m. curtain raiser with Michael Dunigan, the envy of many teams in the field and the most impressive in the preseason, hoping to lead Air21 to a second straight victory.
Talk ‘N Text absorbed a 92-99 upset loss from Meralco last Saturday and coach Norman Black said they cannot take it easy against the Express, who conquered the Gin Kings convincingly in their tournament-opening assignment.
“It’s a game we need to win to keep pace with the early leaders,” Black said. “I’m hoping that our defense will be better, and that our import stays out of foul trouble. We have to try and control their import, who is very good.”
Dunigan is a massive presence underneath and has provided Air21 with the inside force that it missed in the Philippine Cup.
Ginebra, meanwhile, looks likely to be stuck with Hill going into the weekend with import-agents promising management of a prospective replacement in the middle of next week at the latest.
Hill was a disappointment against the Express, going 0-for-10 in the first half and finishing with just 17 points.
A Ginebra team official said Hill confessed to being unnecessarily nervous, especially since his last competitive game was almost a year ago.
Mark Caguioa, the reigning MVP, paced the Kings with 26 points in that game and is again expected to be the first offensive option of Ginebra, which plays powerhouse Petron Blaze and Renaldo Balkman on Sunday.
Globalport will be seeking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Barako Bull last Sunday, when the Batang Pier bungled a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to lose by 10 in overtime.
Japeth Aguilar, Gary David, Sol Mercado and import Justin Williams form a formidable quartet for the Batang Pier, who underwent a massive facelift in the offseason by tabbing the rejuvenated 6-foot-9 Aguilar and the hard-working Mercado.
Mercado is turning in eye-popping numbers for Globalport, shooting 18 points and dishing out a career-high 16 assists against the Energy.
The streak-shooting David, on the other hand, has remained his old deadly self and will definitely be a marked man for the Ginebra defense.