Chot rejoins TNT at crucial juncture; Magnolia battles SMB
Four perennial contenders figure in Wednesday’s Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup doubleheader at Smart Araneta Coliseum, with one half looking to sustain their winning ways, and the other simply holding on for dear life.
TNT squares off against sister team Meralco in the curtain-raiser, with the rest of the Tropang Giga looking to pair their well-rested bodies with the hot hands of Roger Pogoy and Poy Erram, who are coming back from Gilas Pilipinas duty.
“We’re going to play some really tough teams in this next round, coming back, so the quality of the practices is going to mean a lot … so that’s going to be the focus,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes, who is also coming back from national duty, where he coached Gilas Pilipinas to a pair of victories in the Middle East.
His counterpart, Meralcocoach Norman Black, is going to have a smaller margin for error in the 3 p.m. duel as the Bolts’ 3-5 win-loss record has put them two spots under the playoff threshold.
“Right now, all the wins we can get are very important,” he went on.
Magnolia, meanwhile, battles its corporate sibling in San Miguel Beer later in the day.
And Hotshots mentor Chito Victolero seems hell-bent on giving the struggling Beermen no quarter.
“We will face San Miguel and then the Bay Area Dragons. We need to keep our eyes on the prize,” he said.
“I told the players we have a long way to go. A long journey. So we really need to keep our focus,” added Victolero, in what sounded like something that coach Leo Austria can copy come tipoff.
The Beermen, who ruled the all-Filipino conference, are barely hanging on in the race with their 3-4 record, largely due to the absence of cornerstone June Mar Fajardo, who is still recovering from a throat procedure.
But with CJ Perez hardened by Gilas duty and a robust collection of stars at its disposal, San Miguel could just pull off a massive turnaround.
The Beermen also have four more games left after the clash with the Hotshots, giving the vaunted club enough breathing room to salvage its campaign. INQ
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