ALASKA Milk hopes the return of high-energy player Calvin Abueva can inject some life back into its suddenly flickering quarterfinal bid when it tangles with Meralco on Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Abueva sat out the Aces’ 93-96 loss to Barangay Ginebra after being hospitalized due to nasal infection. But he has rejoined the team’s practice middle of last week after being discharged from Cardinal Santos Medical Center.
Alaska coach Luigi Trillo knows Abueva’s presence is exactly what the Aces (5-6) need when they attempt to snap out of an alarming four-game losing skid in the 5:15 p.m. game against the Bolts (6-5).
“We gave him three to four days of rest. And it’s nice to see him back. He brings energy to the team,” said Trillo.
The former NCAA MVP has averaged 13.2 points, nine rebounds, and 1.8 assists in the seven games he has played with the Aces this season while making a big impact on the defensive end as well.
With a quarterfinal slot still uncertain for the Aces at this point, they need Abueva and the rest of the team to bring their A-game, especially on defense, in the team's last three elimination-round games.
Statistics showed that the Aces gave up an average of 94.5 points to opponents during their four-game losing streak - in stark contrast to the 82.8 points the Aces gave up during their five-game winning run where they beat Barako Bull, Petron, Air21, Barangay Ginebra and Talk ‘N Text over a three-week span.
Meralco has had its own issues on defense as well. The Bolts even blew a 26-point lead and allowed the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters to win, 102-98 in overtime last week.
Meralco, at least, managed to check a two-game skid with its 101-92 whipping of Globalport last week.
“Coming off the tough loss to Rain or Shine, it’s challenging to stay focused and not be emotionally drained coming from that loss. But our team has shown a lot of character,” said Meralco star guard Sol Mercado, who leads the league in scoring (21.4 points) and assists (6.5 assists) this conference.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time. We want to try to get to the top four…the game (against Alaska) is very crucial. They (Aces) are a great team. They won like a five-game streak, but they are more dangerous after the four-game skid. We need to prepare and be focused,” added the 28-year-old Mercado.