MERALCO looks to stretch its win streak to three while GlobalPort hopes to arrest a two-game slide in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts are back on track after opening the season with two straight losses and have evened their record following a morale-boosting win over erstwhile unbeaten Barangay Ginebra.
Gametime is a 5:45 p.m.
Like San Mig Super Coffee, Talk ’N Text and league-leader Petron, Meralco has been battling injury issues at the start of the season but has drawn big games from its remaining healthy players.
Already without injured forwards Kerby Raymundo (knee) and Cliff Hodge (ankle), the Bolts also lost veteran forward Reynel Hugnatan early in the first period of Sunday’s game against Ginebra to a sprained left ankle. The 6-foot-4 Hugnatan will be out for two weeks.
But Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio isn’t using the injury bug as an excuse to play listlessly, especially against a Globalport squad that likes to run at every given opportunity.
“Done with Ginebra but we cannot live in the past. We must move forward,” said Gregorio. “Now we are up against the best offensive team in the league, Globalport. We want to get our head above .500.”
Gregorio recognizes the talent in the Globalport (1-3) team led by veterans Jay Washington (19.5 ppg., 9.7 rpg. and 2.0 apg.) and Solomon Mercado (14.5 ppg., 4.5 rpg., and 4.5 apg.).
Sensational rookie guard Terrence Romeo has been leading the team in scoring with his 22.5 points per game average, along with 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, while his former Far Eastern University backcourt mate RR Garcia submits 9.7 points and 3.0 assists per contest.
“They (Batang Pier) are overflowing with individual talent. They can flat out score. A shootout will be disastrous for us. So we have to clamp down on defense, get them to bleed for points and do not allow them easy baskets,” he added.
Without his three solid big men out due to injuries, Meralco will again be relying on newly-acquired center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, who thus far, has responded to the challenge with his averages of 11.5 points and career-highs of 8.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.
Globalport though has enough big men to bang bodies underneath led by Washington, Jondan Salvador, sophomore forward Jewel Ponferada and rookie center Justin Chua, who averages decent stats of 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 18 minutes of play.