NLEX will be trying to pounce on a closing window of opportunity as it goes up against powerhouse San Miguel Beer on Friday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The Road Warriors aim to hand the Beermen their first loss this season – and NLEX coach Yeng Guiao believes there’s no better time – or chance – to do it to the defending champions than in this all-Filipino conference when top rookie pick Christian Standhardinger is yet to arrive.
“If you want to beat San Miguel, this is the best time to beat them, although no team has yet found a formula to beat them this conference,” Guiao said ahead of their anticipated matchup that tips off at 7 p.m.
“Pero mas mahirap silang talunin next conference pag nandyan na si Standhardinger,” he added of the Filipino-German standout slotman. “So siguro all the teams stand their best chance of beating them now, and in the future, baka wala ng tumalo sa kanila.”
“Kaya habang maaga, pagpursigihan na natin na talunin ang San Miguel. And we’ll prepare hard for them,” the champion coach continued as his team aims to bounce back from back-to-back losses, the latest at the hands of Magnolia, 105-94, last Sunday.
Even without Standhardinger, the Beermen have looked as formidable as usual with their fearsome five of June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross leading them to three straight wins in their bid for an unprecedented fourth straight all-Filipino championship.
Fajardo, Cabagnot, Santos, and Lassiter have been carrying the offensive load, accounting for 61 of SMB’s 88 points in their 12-point win over TNT KaTropa last Saturday in Iloilo with Santos and Cabagnot hitting the biggest baskets at crunch time.
Ross, for his part, has been anchoring the other side of the floor. Against the Road Warriors, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year tests the mettle of rookie sensation Kiefer Ravena, who is coming off a career-high 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, on top of five assists, four rebounds, and four steals, without committing a single turnover in over 32 minutes of play.