TREATING each game in the PBA Governors Cup with playoff urgency, Air21 is looking no less than a victory against Barako Bull as the two teams clash in the opening match of a Saturday doubleheader at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Express are coming off a 103-96 victory against the injury-depleted Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Tuesday, when bull-strong import Dominique Sutton shook off jetlag and registered a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds as he overcame a lot of banging at the hands of the Elasto Painters’ rugged defenders.
Sutton, a product of North Carolina Central in college, tries to bring in the same energetic and physical approach against the Energy (1-1) in their 2:45 p.m. match.
“We should consider each game as a playoff game because it’s a short tournament,” Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said.
Pumaren pointed out that since ties among fourth to eighth teams at the end of the eliminations will be resolved through quotient system, it is imperative for the Express to pile up wins early this tournament.
“For this conference, there’s no more playoff ties. It’s automatic quotient system so every point is important for us,” he added.
With Sutton ready to provide the inside presence, ageless center Asi Taulava could switch back at defending local big men.
“He plays hard, he’s more athletic and is really fit for the team. I’m happy we could have him (Sutton),” Taulava said.
While Air21 is out to prove the franchise’s first-ever Final Four finish in the Commissioner’s Cup is no fluke, Barako Bull is currently undergoing slow transition from depending on its veterans to tapping the services of its younger players more.
“We still have a lot of work to be done pero at least, `yung effort ng players was there (against San Mig), but still, we have long ways to go,” said coach Siot Tanquingcen, whose team suffered a 76-66 beating at the hands San Mig Coffee on Wednesday.
Tanquingcen, who succeeded Bong Ramos as Barako Bull mentor, believes that rookies Jeric Fortuna and and Carlo Lastimosa only need to gain the much-needed experience to get better in the league.
“They’ll be good players, but they got to put in the time muna. Parang namumuhunan sila eh,” he said.
Fortuna, Barako Bull’s 13th overall pick in last year’s Draft, is the team’s second leading scorer this conference with his 10 points per game average, while Lastimosa, the Energy’s 20th overall pick last year, averages 8.0 points and 3.0 rebounds during the team’s first two games.