By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE LEAGUE-leading Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters go for their fifth win in as many games in the PBA Philippine Cup when they collide with the NLEX Road Warriors today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The lone unbeaten team left in the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tournament, the Fuel Masters (4-0) seek to continue rolling against the steadily ascending Road Warriors (2-3) in their scheduled 4:30 p.m. match
Playing in the main game at 7 p.m. are the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (4-1) and the Northport Batang Pier (2-1).
Phoenix is coming off a 114-95 victory over the Blackwater Elite on Feb. 1, the most recent in its string of wins.
Leading the charge for the Fuel Masters in their strong start is league leading scorer Matthew Wright, who is averaging 20.5 points to go along with 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
Backstopping him are Calvin Abueva (15.3 ppg and 12 rpg), Jason Perkins (13.3 ppg) and Justin Chua (11.8 ppg).
Also chipping in their fair share for Phoenix are veterans JC Intal, Alex Mallari and LA Revilla.
“Honestly it’s a great feeling. I’m very happy on how we’ve been playing,” said Mr. Wright following their victory over Blackwater.
But the Gilas Pilipinas player was quick to point out that they have not accomplish anything yet and that they have to continue putting in the work to improve and establish consistency in winning.
“We’re still far from where we need to be,” Mr. Wright said.
Looking to stop the streaking Fuel Masters are the Road Warriors, winners of their last two matches after starting their campaign in the All-Filipino tournament with three straight losses.
NLEX defeated the Meralco Bolts, 87-83, on Feb. 2 in a hard-fought game that saw the former rising to the challenge down the stretch.
The Road Warriors had a balanced attack, led by JR Quiñahan’s 16 points with Bong Galanza (14 points), JP Erram (12) and Kevin Alas (12) providing needed help.
Mr. Erram, an offseason acquisition by the team and the current PBA player of the week, also came up big on the defensive end, chalking up a game-high five blocks, including a crucial one in the closing seconds to help preserve the win for his team.
Winning back-to-back, NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said it is a good sign for them and that hopefully they get to continue the trend to make up for their slow start,
“I think this is a good sign for us. We’re trying to recover from a bad start so with this we’re able to get some momentum which we hope to build on in our next game,” Mr. Guiao said.
Unfortunately for NLEX it will be missing the services of Mr. Alas, who reinjured his right knee during their game versus Meralco. The NLEX guard, an MRI showed, suffered another ACL injury which will sideline him for months.
Meanwhile in the second game, Rain or Shine looks to stretch its winning streak, which currently stands at two, against Northport, which is aiming to bounce back after losing in its last game.