AIR21 hopes to catch another big fish and grab a share of the early lead when it clashes with tournament favorite Talk ’N Text on Friday as the PBA Commissioner’s Cup resumes at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fresh from their 74-70 upset win against the Barangay Ginebra Kings Sunday, the Express (1-0), bannered by prolific import Michael Dunigan, face the Tropang Texters (0-1) at 5:15 p.m.
Dunigan dominated Barangay Ginebra in his PBA debut outing, tallying 26 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks. The Express hope to get the same huge numbers from the 6-foot-9 import anew as they try to join Barako Bull and Alaska on top of the leaderboard.
Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said he’s glad to have a hardworking import that can make up for some of the team’s weaknesses.
“Looking at the overall picture, man to man, we’re the weakest I think in terms of the locals,” said Pumaren.
“Look at the other teams, they’ve upgraded their lineups. But I think Michael is a big factor because he gave us an intimidating presence underneath. When we needed to score, he gets it done.”
In contrast, Talk ’N Text is coming off a shocking 92-99 loss to sister team Meralco last week.
While import Keith Benson scored 25 points and 11 rebounds, the 24-year-old former Oakland Golden Grizzlies fouled out with three minutes left in his PBA debut.
“I’m still adjusting a little bit to my teammates because we came out a little bit slow. I guess doing a quick turnaround is sometimes hard to come after a (Philippine Cup) championship. So I think we need to be a little bit more aggressive and just get our legs ready for the (next) game,” the 6’11” Benson said.
Talk ’N Text was among the last PBA squads to prepare for the second conference, but Black is confident they can make up for lost time.
The multi-titled PBA mentor gave his players a two-week rest after winning the franchise’s third straight Philippine Cup title.
“We need to get in shape. We only had eight days of practice. But we’ll utilize this week to get back in shape in time for our game on Friday,” Black said.
Kelly Williams is expected to be back in harness after missing the game against Meralco. He failed to make it in time when his flight back to Manila from the United States was delayed due to bad weather.
However, the team will miss veteran big man Ali Peek for the next three weeks as he rests his knee.