(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4: 35 p.m. -- Blackwater vs. Meralco
7 p.m.--Ginebra vs . NLEX
DESPITE an injury-plagued campaign that saw most of its top stars miss some time, defending champion Barangay Ginebra is off to a conference-best 5-1 start in a tie with sister tean Magnolia.
Only a 118-124 setback to Blackwater last Sept. 21 prevented the Gin Kings and coach Tim Cone from putting together a dream start in the season-ending conference which they have won the past two seasons.
A major reason for this near-perfect start is import Justin Brownlee, who is averaging a league-best 35.0 points a game and team-highs of 13.1 rebounds and 6. 1 assists in all six games so far
Today, Brownlee and the still injury-saddled Gin Kings look to extend their winning ways and wrest solo lead anew when they meet unpredictable NLEX in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
But the Gin Kings have to do it against the Warriors in the 7 p.m. encounter minus another key contributor, Joe de Vance.
“We have another tough back-to-back this weekend with NLEX and Meralco. NLEX has been very good and efficient offensively and we’ll have to figure a way to defend them,” said Cone.
“But injuries continue to hound us with Joe Devance now out for the next 3-4 weeks.We’re hoping Japeth (Aguilar) can join us for this weekend, and Greg (Slaughter) and Sol (Mercado) are just around the corner in terms of returning to the lineup,” added Cone.
Devance was one of the players who delivered clutch plays when the Gin Kings outsteadied Phoenix, 101-99, in Cagayan de Oro City last Sept 29.
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao admitted Ginebra remains hard to beat even with a depleted line-up.
“They’re good. Guys have been stepping up big time for them,” said Guiao.
Another team enjoying a red-hot start is Blackwater, which swept its first five games before losing 108-124 to NLEX last Sept. 28
Import William Henry Walker averages team-high 27.4 points a game for the Elite, but was limited to only 16 points on a dismal 6-of-17 shooting againt the Road Warriors.
Walker and the Elite will now try to get back on the winning track when they collide with a Meralco team which just returned to the country following a fourth-place finish in the FIBA Asia Champions’ Cip in Thaiand last Tuesday.
“Meralco’s standings is 1-3. Bad start for them, but they are one of the expected strong teams this conference. But If Meralco will be able to regroup they are really strong,” Blackwater coach Bong Ramos.
Meralco, losing finalists to Ginebra in the last two editions of the conferences, is on a three-game slide.
The Norman Black-mentored Bolts, however, will continue to play minus Jared Dillinger and Ranidel de Ocampo.
In their places are reigning back-to-back Best Import Allen Durham, Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge.