(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. — Terrafirma vs Meralco
5:45 p.m. — Bay Area vs Converge
AFTER debuting with a 46-point blowout, guest team Bay Area Dragons had to dig deep to hurdle a tight match on a buzzer-beating triple then pull through with a come-from-behind caper from 16 down to make it 3-0.
And with local rivals itching and seriously plotting to bring them down, the Dragons of Hong Kong brace for a rougher road ahead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Up next for the co-leaders is Converge (1-1), which tries to succeed where Bay Area’s early victims Blackwater (133-87), NorthPort (105-104) and Phoenix (101-91) previously failed at.
Also taking the Big Dome’s floor are Meralco (0-2) and Terrafirma (0-3) in a 3 p.m. tiff pitting teams scrambling for breakthrough in the mid-season conference.
The matchup with Converge actually ushers in a tough stretch for Brian Goorjian’s Dragons, who face off with top contender Barangay Ginebra and titleholder San Miguel Beer afterwards.
“The competition so far has been tough. I think the guys understand now and are starting to know what we have to do in order to win and that’s important heading to the top teams,” said Mr. Goorjian.
Explosive 6-foot-2 import Myles Powell, the leader in scoring (36.7 points per game) and steals (3.0 per outing) this conference, looks to power the Dragons to 4-0 and solo first before giving way to the 6-foot-10 Andrew Nicholson in their next four games.
“Same approach I had the last three games. I know coach wants us to be successful. Since I’ve got here, I’ve listened to him and my game has been taking steps forward so I’ll continue to do that,” said Mr. Powell.
Per setup with the PBA, Bay Area will field Mr. Powell in their first four games then suit up second import Mr. Nicholson in the succeeding four. By its ninth match, the team will choose who between the two will play the remainder of the campaign.
Out to foil Mr. Powell’s plan is Quincy Miller, who is intent to bring Converge back on track after its 109-105 loss to Magnolia and into a share of fourth with Rain or Shine and NorthPort at 2-1. In Aldin Ayo’s FiberXers, the Dragons can expect a hard-nosed opponent that puts premium on defense and a high-octane game.
Meanwhile, the Bolts seek to climb out of one of its worst starts in conferences with imports. But they will carry it out minus key player Chris Newsome (calf), who missed a good portion of Meralco’s 101-95 overtime heartbreaker to NorthPort last Friday and sat out the 99-91 setback to Ginebra last Sunday.
“Hopefully, this week of preparations will help us adjust to the loss of Chris Newsome who will be out for at least three games,” said Meralco mentor Norman Black, challenging import Johnny O’Bryant (30.5 markers, 19 boards and 4.5 dimes) and the healthy locals to step up some more.
The Dyip are staying upbeat in a bid to break not only a three-game conference slide but also a longer 19-game skid overall.
Notes: TNT coach Chot Reyes faces a possible fine for his outburst in the aftermath of the Tropang Giga’s tournament-opening defeat to Magnolia, 94-92, last Wednesday. A fuming Mr. Reyes confronted the referees and technical officials for what he perceived as a wrongly-called foul on Calvin Oftana that led to Paul Lee’s dagger free throws. League rules prohibit players and coaches from approaching the officials’ table and slap an automatic fine on violators.