Shooting for the top
Neither a victory going into a 12-day layoff nor a share of the PBA Governors’ Cup lead at 7-1 could give NLEX coach Yeng Guiao a sense of security.
“We know we are very fragile,” said the Road Warriors coach, whose charges bucked a lethargic start and managed to gut out a 111-91 victory over Rain or Shine recently at Cuneta Astrodome.
The tough-talking mentor knows they can fall any time, his team, after all, was behind two stunning upsets in the tournament thus far: over crowd-darling Barangay Ginebra in Dubai last month, and against a streaking TNT just last week.
“We know that the slightest of errors can lead to a slipup,” Guiao said. “I hope we can hold on to this for as long as we can.”
Now that they are in a very good position, Guiao and the Road Warriors will be shooting for a twice-to-beat advantage in the first round of the playoffs, an incentive exclusive to the top four finishers of the elimination phase.
While NLEX looks a well-humming machine as evidenced by their league-best averages in bench scoring (54.2) and assists (28.5), Guiao admits to having to rest much of the twice-to-beat task on their import, Manny Harris.
“The risk was we would look bad or we would look like geniuses,” he said of the move to tap the NBA G-League veteran to replace old reliable Olu Ashaolu, who helped NLEX to a 4-1 record, counting that win over the Gin Kings.
“So far, we’re looking the latter,” he added in jest after Harris completed his first PBA triple-double in the win over Rain or Shine, which came after two high-scoring games.
The Road Warriors are undefeated in three games with Harris.
NLEX failed to make it past the elimination round of the first two conferences, also largely due in part to the suspension star sophomore Kiefer Ravena served.
The Road Warriors are in unfamiliar terrain this conference, and Guiao would like to ride it however far this streak takes them.
“We never dreamed of No. 1. But if there’s a chance, we’ll take it,” he said.
NLEX has three more assignments left in the eliminations in defending champion Magnolia, which is at 4-4; undermanned NorthPort, which is hanging by a thread in the Top 8; and a struggling Alaska.
The Hotshots, though, are on a tear with Romeo Travis regaining top form after an injury kept him out of a game.
The Batang Pier will be without ace rookie Robert Bolick.
“We’re in a position where we want to be,” Guiao said.
It’s just up to the Road Warriors on how they handle it from here, and knowing that they are fragile enough to be had anytime, it could serve them in good stead.
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