By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE now-rolling San Miguel Beermen get back to PBA Philippine Cup action today, facing off with the NLEX Road Warriors in the 7 p.m. main game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Winners of their last two matches in the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tournament, the defending champions Beermen (4-3) are out to extend their streak as they try to make a strong assault for a spot in the playoffs.
The latest of the wins of San Miguel was against the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok, 113-92, on Feb. 10, days before the PBA took a two-week break to give way to Gilas Pilipinas’ bid in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Prior to that, San Miguel defeated the Blackwater Elite, 93-79, on Feb. 6.
Against Magnolia, the Beermen were in their element as they fended off every challenge that the Hotshots threw at them as they booked their second victory in a row.
Veteran Arwind Santos led three San Miguel players who scored 20 points or more in their win over the Hotshots, finishing with 29 points.
Terrence Romeo had 23 points while five-time league most valuable player June Mar Fajardo had 22 points to go along with eight rebounds.
Alex Cabagnot was the other Beerman in double digits with 11.
The big win over Magnolia had San Miguel coach Leo Austria full hope that his team could finally turning things around after a slow start to the tournament.
“The chemistry is there. That’s our problem before because we couldn’t practice with all the players hit by injuries. Slowly, we gained a good rhythm,” said Mr. Austria after their win over Magnolia.
NLEX (2-4), for its part, eyes a return to winning following a heartbreaking 83-82 loss to the league-leading Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters on Feb. 8.
The Road Warriors had a good chance of winning the contest but fell prey to the tight defense that Phoenix put up in the end.
Big man JP Erram is leading the way for NLEX with solid numbers of 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game.
Veteran JR Quiñahan has been good for 14 points and 5.2 rebounds while Bong Galanza is chipping in 10.8 points a match.
NLEX is playing sans marquee guards Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas. Mr. Ravena is still serving his suspension meted by FIBA while Mr. Alas fell to another ACL injury early in the tournament.
Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao, also Gilas Pilipinas tactician, said their backcourt has to step up in the absence of their key guys if they are to go deep in the tournament.
“We’re just going to have to draw the best out of the guards we have right now. They have their good games but I think we still need more consistency from them,” the coach said.
Meanwhile, playing in the curtain-raiser at 4:30 p.m. are the Northport Batang Pier (2-3) and Meralco Bolts (2-5).
Both teams are currently on a major slide, each having lost their last three assignments, and hoping to wiggle out of the skein and give their playoff bids a boost.