ALASKA coach Jeffrey Cariaso is not one to tip his hand in a game where so much is at stake.
Cariaso kept his cards close to his chest yesterday as they geared up for Calvin Abueva and Phoenix Super LPG today in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
Rampaging TNT tries to pick up from where it left off when it duels NLEX in the nightcap.
The Tropang Giga are eyeing their sixth straight win that will keep them firmly on top and formalize their entry into the eight-team quarterfinals.
“Iyun talaga target namin sa ngayon, ang makapasok muna sa quarterfinals,” said TNT coach Bong Ravena. “Then, we will continue to try and win more games para makapasok sa top four, possibly be even No. 1.”
The top four teams will be rewarded with a twice-to-beat advantage over lower-ranked squads in the last eight.
Phoenix and Alaska are also aiming to make the playoffs first and would try to use each other as a stepping stone.
The Fuel Masters should have one foot in should they notch their third straight win while the Aces are bent on covering the half-a-game distance between them in the standings while bolstering their own bid.
Already playing well behind Matthew Wright, Jason Perkins and Justin Chua, Phoenix got an even bigger boost with the return of Abueva.
Suspended since early June of last year, “The Beast” played his first game as if he was never away, notching a near triple-double of 21 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists to help the Fuel Masters beat NLEX 114-110 last Monday.
Cariaso, his staff and his players were foremost among those who keenly watched that game, but he offered little when asked about how they would try to deal with Abueva.
“First of all, I’m happy that Calvin’s back,” said Cariaso following the Aces’ 99-96 decision over Terrafirma just last Tuesday.
“But it is what it is. We’re in a situation where his teammates were already playing well, they’ve added Calvin who gives them that extra spark so we’re gonna have our hands full,” added Cariaso.
“Again, our focus is to prepare for them, for us to be ready. Hindi naman nag-iiba preparations namin, kasama siya sa preparation. We’re scouting him like we scout other players.”
TNT actually had an initial crack at reaching its immediate goal last Monday, when it was supposed to duel NorthPort. But the game was canceled when it was announced the day before that a Blackwater had tested positive for the coronavirus.
As a result, the unidentified player was immediately put in quarantine while his teammates were also put in isolation. Since the Tropa played the Elite the Thursday before, they were also barred from leaving their rooms and the former’s game against the Batang Pier reset to a later date.
Following confirmatory tests, the player, the rest of the Blackwater squad as well as the entire TNT side were allowed to practice and play anew.
The delay had a silver lining for the Tropa. Ace guard Jayson Castro, who sat out the Blackwater game due to tightness on his right calf, is now fully fit and ready to see action anew.