TNT, Ginebra parade returning imports Josh Smith, Justin Brownlee against separate foes
With returning imports at their disposal, Nash Racela and Tim Cone look to lead their teams to victory. 

TNT KaTropa seeks a share of the lead when it faces Columbian Dyip in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

The KaTropa look to improve their 4-1 win-loss slate when they take on the Dyip at 4:30 p.m.

Focus will be on Joshua Smith for the late afternoon tiff as he sets to return to TNT following a stint in Japan.

Smith replaced the ineffective Jeremy Tyler, who played his final game last May 13 in a loss to Alaska. TNT played without an import last May 18 but still wound up with a 120-101 win over Blackwater.

A victory by KaTropa will tie them with Rain or Shine on top of the team standings.

“That’s always nice to get headstart,” TNT coach Nash Racela said as his team entered the All-Star break with an impressive recod. “But we all know, it’s always how you sustain and how you finish. So, it’s nice.

“What’s nice about it is magkakaroon sila ng break sa isa’t isa. Hopefully, when they all come back after the All Star break, na-miss namin yung isa’t isa. And hopefully, it works for us,” said Racela.

The Dyip hold an even 3-3 record entering the All-Star break but lost in lopsided fashion to Magnolia, 126-101, last May 16.

Meralco and Barangay Ginebra collide in Friday’s second outing as both teams look to get back to their winning ways.

The Bolts and the Gin Kings square off at 7 p.m.

Meralco occupies the fifth spot with a 3-2 win-loss record following an 81-79 defeat against Magnolia on May 18.

Despite the loss, Meralco coach Norman Black remained optimistic about the team’s chances to go deep into the conference because of their defensive effort.

“We’ve been playing good defense. That’s the reason why we’ve been competitive so far this conference,” Black said.

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The Bolts received a bit of good news on the eve of the game after veteran Ranidel De Ocampo was cleared to play his first game this conference following a calf injury he sustained in last year’s Governors’ Cup.

Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra sits in a tie with San Miguel for 10th spot in the team standings with a 1-3 win-loss record.

Friday’s match will be the first of a tough weekend matches for the Gin Kings as they are set to face off against reigning champion San Miguel on Sunday.

“We have a tough, make or break weekend ahead and we need a sense of urgency since we’re pulling up the rear in the standings,” said Cone.

Friday will be the debut of Justin Brownlee in his return as import of Barangay Ginebra in the Commissioner’s Cup.

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