By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
CURRENTLY the hottest team in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup, the Alaska Aces look to extend their tournament-best six-game winning streak when they return to action today against the struggling NLEX Road Warriors in the 7 p.m. main game at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Lost in their opening game of the tournament, the Aces (6-1) have not looked back since, going on an impressive run to date that has put them in prime position to finish in the top two at the end of the elimination round that would merit for them the twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals.
Leading the way for Alaska of late is Vic Manuel, the reigning PBA player of the week for the solid performances he has been churning out.
Mr. Manuel has been averaging 24.9 points a game, a major step-up for the Aces who are without key cogs Calvin Abueva (due to team suspension) and Jeron Teng (out because of off-court injury).
The 30-year-old forward, nicknamed “Muscle Man,” dropped a career-high 35 points in their last victory over the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok, 103-99, on June 10, 17 of which coming in the pivotal fourth quarter.
“I don’t know what to say, he just went on. He’s pretty phenomenal,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton of Mr. Manuel in the win over Magnolia.
Import Antonio Campbell also had it big in said game, winding up with a double-double of 28 points and 15 rebounds.
Standing in the way of Alaska is NLEX, a team that is having it disappointing in the ongoing tournament with a 2-6 record and already out of the running for the playoffs.
Like Alaska, NLEX is missing key pieces like prized rookie Kiefer Ravena (FIBA suspension) and Kevin Alas (injury) which has only compounded its woes in trying to compete well.
The Road Warriors have lost their last two games, the latest of which at the hands of the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, 93-85, in an out-of-town game in Legazpi City on June 9.
Import Arnett Moultrie had another big game for NLEX of 30 points and 19 rebounds but just did not have the needed support from the rest of the team to challenge the Kings.
Meanwhile, playing in the curtain-raiser at 4:30 p.m. are the Meralco Bolts (5-2) and Blackwater Elite (1-8).
The Bolts have won two straight and are still on track of a top-two finish in the eliminations while the Elite fell back to earth after losing in their last game following a debut win in the tournament in their previous assignment.