PETRON Blaze hopes to ride the momentum of its emphatic win over defending champion San Mig Coffee as it tries to pounce on a low-morale Barangay Ginebra side Sunday in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Boosters (1-1) tore the Mixers to shreds, 98-73 as import Renaldo Balkman played with fire in his eyes, scoring 28 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, and adding five blocks in a scintillating performance Wednesday.
Balkman is expected to carry that same fire and energy when the Boosters battle the winless Kings (0-2) in the 6:30 p.m. main game.
The match is also expected to be import Herbert Hill’s last with Ginebra as replacement Vernon Macklin is set to arrive on Monday night.
Hill has been taking much of the flak for the Kings’ winless start.
The 6-foot-9 Hill, one of the first imports to arrive, is averaging 19.5 points and 18.5 rebounds for Ginebra, but appears to be lacking the explosiveness the Kings are looking for in this import-spiced conference.
And while fans of the league’s most popular team are quick to put the blame on Hill, veteran forward Rudy Hatfield said the locals also have to step up if they hope to beat a souped-up Petron squad.
“We have to improve, no matter who the import is, and with that we will win,” said Hatfield, a known workhorse for the Kings.
Outside Mark Caguioa, who scored 20 points in Ginebra's losing stand against Globalport, 80-89, no other local players scored in double figures.
Prized point guard LA Tenorio scored just eight on 2-of-13 shooting from the field, not much improvement from his three-point performance in the team's 70-74 loss to Air21 where he shot 0-of-11.
Meanwhile, Petron rookie coach Olsen Racela said he has been preaching defense to his etam since the conference started.
“Sinasabi ko sa kanila huwag na hintayin for us to be down na to win an important game before kami maglaro. Dapat start pa lang ng conference maglaro na kami ng mabuti,” said Racela.
“Every game matters. Balanced na ang mga teams ngayon. Barako Bull and Air21 are playing well ang dangerous teams. So every win is important. And every loss for that matter eh malaking bagay,” he added.