By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
DEFENDING Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings go for their third win in a row in the ongoing tournament when they play the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Bounced back from a tournament opener loss with back-to-back wins, the Kings (2-1) seek to stretch their win streak in their 7 p.m. game to keep in step with the leaders in the standings while adding to the struggles of the still-winless Elasto Painters (0-2).
The latest of the victories of Barangay Ginebra came over the Northport Batang Pier, 73-70, on June 1 where it had to dig deep to hack out the win.
Import Justin Brownlee had 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals to lead the Kings with Greg Slaughter adding 16 points.
Scottie Thompson was the other Barangay Ginebra player in double digits with 11 points to go along with 12 rebounds and five assists.
Knowing they could have easily lost the ball game, Kings coach Tim Cone could not help but heave a sigh of relief following their win.
“I thought it was a loss for us. We did not play well tonight and had a lot of turnovers,” said Mr. Cone, whose team incidentally welcomed free-agent Jared Dillinger in its fold early this week after snagging him from the unrestricted free-agent list of the Meralco Bolts.
Out to stop the Kings is Rain or Shine, which is having it rough early in the midseason PBA tournament with two losses to open its campaign.
Import Denzel Bowles has been leading the charge for the Elasto Painters with 29 points and 9.5 rebounds in the team’s first two games.
Ed Daquioag is backstopping him with 11.5 points a game followed by James Yap (nine points) and Beau Belga (8.5 points).
Meanwhile, playing in the opener at 4:30 p.m. are Meralco (2-2) and undermanned Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters (1-1).
The Bolts go for consecutive wins in follow-up to their 91-84 victory over Rain or Shine last time around.
In said game it was a total effort for Meralco with import Gani Lawal Jr. finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds followed by Anjo Carma with 17 points and six assists.
Chris Newsone had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Ranidel De Ocampo had 12 points.
“The locals stepped up today. Credit to them,” said winning coach Norman Black after their win.
Meralco looks to parade big man Raymond Almazan in today’s game after being acquired in the in-between conference break from Rain or Shine.
Phoenix, for its part, plays its first game sans the indefinitely suspended Calvin Abueva, who was meted with fines and suspension for misconduct in each of their first two games, including a nasty clothesline to TNT KaTropa import Terrence Jones in their last game.
Before being suspended, Mr. Abueva was averaging 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
The Fuel Masters are also set to play with a new import in Richard Howell, replacing original choice Rob Dozier who is suffering from plantar fasciitis which was hampering his mobility.
Mr. Howell is a former best import awardee who helped TNT reach the finals of the Commissioner’s Cup in 2014.
In two games with Phoenix, Mr. Dozier averaged 17 points, 14 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 1.5 steals.