NLEX-Meralco battle: Defense is key

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    ATTACK MODE: Sean Manganti of NorthPort tries to score off Kris Porter of NLEX in last Wednesday’s game won by the Road Warriors 102-88. PBA PHOTO

    NLEX and Meralco aim to carry over the momentum gained from their recent morale-boosting wins into their game today in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.

    Magnolia and Phoenix Super LPG try to snap out of their two-game slide when they tangle in the nightcap.

    The opener features protagonists who each got favorable big breaks in their last outing.

    Meralco is coming off a 109-104 overtime win over Magnolia last Tuesday when the Bolts got twin boosts from Chris Newsome’s sterling all-around performance and the Hotshots played without Ian Sangalang (bad back) and Rome dela Rosa (knee).

    NLEX scored a breakthrough 102-88 win over NorthPort last Wednesday when the Road Warriors’ defense stymied Christian Standhardinger into scoring only seven points, 14 below his average, on just six attempts from the field.

    The Batang Pier also lost do-it-all forward Sean Anthony to a suspected hamstring pull right in the first quarter.

    For once, NLEX also showed a more balanced attack as Kiefer Ravena finished with 25 points, JR Quinahan added 17 and Kevin Alas a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds on top of six assists.

    How their defense holds up this time is the main concern of NLEX and Meralco.
    Ditto for Magnolia and Phoenix.

    Another of the Fuel Masters’ main concerns is getting their legs back under them as the game marks the third time they would be playing since Monday, admittedly a totally unfamiliar experience for interim coach Topex Robinson and his team.

    Ginebra coach Tim Cone pointed out fatigue on Phoenix’s part as one of the main factors why the Kings beat the Fuel Masters 86-71 last Wednesday, barely two days after the latter lost via a 91-110 count to TNT.

    There is another nagging problem for Phoenix, which is to find somebody else to step up in case Matthew Wright gets stymied again.

    Coming into the Ginebra game averaging 30 ppg and fresh from a 31-point game against the Tropang Giga, the Fil-Canadian gunner was held to only 12 points. He did have six assists, but shot just 5-of-17 from the floor and committed four turnovers in 41 minutes.

    Now comes Magnolia with its vaunted backcourt led by Paul Lee and the expected return of Sangalang and Dela Rosa.

    Lee is also expected to come out even stronger after his 32-point explosion proved to be not enough against the Bolts.