MID-TABLE squads Air21 and Barako Bull try to stay within striking distance of the leaders as they face off on Friday in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Express and Energy, coming off contrasting results over the weekend, lock horns at 5:45 p.m.
Air21 (1-1) dropped a 91-95 decision to the Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters on Saturday, while the Energy (1-1) scaled a 16-point first half deficit before turning back the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 110-106, for its first win in the conference.
Express import Herve Lamizana had an impressive stat line despite the defeat, posting a huge double-double against Talk ’N Text with 18 points, 15 rebounds, plus seven assists and a conference-high seven blocks.
The 6-foot-9 Lamizana’s defense will put to test Barako Bull reinforcement Joshua Dollard, who leads the league in scoring with his 44.5 points per game average in the team’s first two games.
Coach Bong Ramos said Barako Bull’s strong fightback against Rain or Shine shows the improvement of the team that was known for melting down at crunch time during the Philippine Cup.
“It’s (win over Rain or Shine) a good experience for us, even though I have veteran players in the team. Hopefully, we have corrected that already, yung sakit namin (of fading in the endgame),” Ramos said.
Air21 coach Franz Pumaren is hopeful Lamizana would continue to improve on his conditioning as well as get used to the physicality of the PBA.
“You can just imagine if he’s (Lamizana) in top shape, what he can do for the team,” said Pumaren.
Air21 collared its first win in the import-spiced conference after beating Globalport, 83-78.