AFTER months of fanfare and anticipation, the first-ever NBA pre-season game in Manila finally takes place in this basketball-crazy country as the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers square off on Thursday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Game time for the historic match is set at 7 p.m. with thousands of Filipino cage fans expected to watch it both at the venue and on television. (Studio 23 will broadcast the game live locally)
The game will be also beamed in the United States live through NBATV and in Houston and Indiana via the team’s network partners.
The Rockets-Pacers game caps half-a-year of waiting for local basketball fans, who had long anticipated the showcase since news of an NBA Global Game Philippines was first announced last March.
For coaches of Houston and Indiana, they see the game as an early test of what the new season holds for them.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale said he’s looking forward to the match especially since the Pacers have begun their NBA season preparations much earlier.
The Hall of Fame player and former Boston Celtics great has high respect for the Pacers, who reached the Eastern Conference Finals last year before bowing to eventual champion Miami Heat in seven games.
“It will be a real big test,” McHale said. “They are a little bit ahead of us. They’ve reached the conference finals. It’s where we want to go.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel, meanwhile, sees a tough game against the Rockets as he sees them as title contenders this season following the acquisition of All-Star center Dwight Howard to join the high-scoring combo of James Harden and Jeremy Lin.
“I think the Rockets are a championship contender. They had a great season last year and in the last 12 months, they’ve added two of the best players in the NBA in Dwight Howard and James Harden,” he noted.
The match Thursday night will be the first of a two-game series as the Rockets and Pacers will also play in another NBA Global Game in Taipei this weekend.
“It will be an interesting couple of games here,” said Vogel.
The 40-year-old Indiana Pacers coach vowed to treat it like a regular season game.
“We’ll play smash-mouth basketball. We will play with toughness, physicality, rebounding, and defense. We are an improved offensive team as well,” said Vogel.