WHETHER or not NLEX is for real will be put to a test starting Friday when it battles Alaska in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors have been treading smoothly in their road to respectability, performing above expectations in only their second year in the league since taking over the Air21 franchise.
But NLEX, running fourth with a 4-2 win-loss card in a tie with Talk ‘N Text, is facing an acid test in the 4:15 encounter against the perennial title-contending Aces, who share the top spot with San Miguel Beer at 5-1.
After Alaska, the Road Warriors will continue a crucial schedule that will see them face contenders GlobalPort, SMB, Ginebra, and Rain or Shine.
“We’re looking at a tough grind ahead,” Road Warriors coach Boyet Fernandez said after his team nipped Meralco, 93-91, last Tuesday. “I’m just hoping we continue this.”
First up are the Aces, who have been on a roll, having won their last three games, the latest a 107-102 win over Star.
JVee Casio, who showed more aggressiveness to lead the Aces with 24 points built around a perfect 4-of-4 clip from beyond the arc against the Hotshots, believes his team is still far from top form.
“I think we could’ve done more (against Star),” the star point guard said. “Marami pa ring kailangan sa team namin.”
Rain or Shine, another perennial contender lurking a half game behind Alaska and SMB, takes on another surprise team in Barako Bull (3-3) to cap off the day’s double-header at 7 o’clock.