EARLY leader TNT tries to stretch its unbeaten run to four against an equally-impressive Phoenix Super LPG today in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Arena in Angeles City.
Defending champion San Miguel Beer and Terrafirma tangle in the nightcap, each trying to win its first match in the Pampanga bubble.
Already without six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, who is still recovering from a shin injury he suffered last February, the Beermen must now do battle without the flashy Terrence Romeo.
Romeo dislocated his right shoulder in the game against TNT last Friday and has already left the bubble for treatment in Manila, an exit that cannot be revoked under agreed-upon conference rules.
With no one able to consistently fill the void and the Tropang Giga displaying sharp form on both ends the Beermen lost that one badly 88-107.
SMB coach Leo Austria is confident his remaining charges could adjust well enough, a claim that should be tested in the Terrafirma game.
Dueling an SMB crew without Romeo is only a bit of welcome news for the team formerly known as Columbian, which has yet to win after two tries.
“Sabi ko sa mga bata, mga beterano iyan, mabilis makaka-adjust mga iyan,” Dyip coach Johnedel Cardel told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.
“Counter na lang siguro namin, takbuhan sila. Kasi kapag tumatakbo kami nakaka-score kami,” added Cardel. “Hopefully, maka-execute kami bukas. And ‘yung pasensiya sa opensa maging effective.”
Unlike practically everyone else in the bubble, TNT seems to have adjusted well to playing in a controlled environment and under very stringent health and safety protocols.
Concrete proof was the way Poy Erram tallied a career-best 27 points against SMB, marking the third straight game a Tropang Giga improved his personal best after RR Pogoy in the opener against Alaska (45 points), followed by Rayray Parks’ 40 versus Terrafirma.
Phoenix coach Topex Robinson remains unperturbed, saying he is more concerned with his players’ growth as a team while having fun at the same time.
“We had our checklist coming into the bubble. One is enjoy this. The other one is, what can we do for each other? And the other one is competitiveness,” Robinson said last Friday, a day after his team improved to 2-0 after hurdling NorthPort 110-105.
“So du’n (TNT game) namin makikita about competing. We just wanna keep competing.
Whoever we’re gonna be up against we just wanna compete. Iyon lang ang sa amin,” added the former team deputy who was thrust into the head coaching position only last month.