(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. -- NLEX vs. Blackwater
7 p.m. -- Rain or Shine vs. Magnolia
A FIFTH straight win -- a franchise-best -- is surely in the wish list of Blackwater.
Winning four straight games against Talk N Text, San Miguel Beer, NorthPort and defending champion Barangay Ginebra should be enough reasons to give the Elite the much-needed confidence.
But while Blackwater coach Bong Ramos believes his team has already established itself as a legitimate title contender, he is also the first to admit that the Elite still has a lot of work to do to live up to their high billing.
“Four wins pa lang yan. We still have to play seven more games. Kailangan lang namin to treat it one game at a time,” said Ramos after Blackwater’s dramatic 124-118 overtime win over Ginebra last Friday.
Asked if the Elite are for real, Ramos readily agreed.
“Nasa puso ko, yes. Sa puso ng mga player sko, I think yes,” said Ramos, whose team entered the conference with little expectations after a dismal 1-10 showing in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup that saw him replace long-time mentor Leo Isaac after a dismal 0-3 start.
Tonight, Blackwater gets another acid test when it plays dangerous NLEX in the 4:30 p.m. curtainraiser of another regular doubleheader at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With coach Yeng Guiao back after his duties with the PBA-backed national team in the Asian Games and the F IBA Asia Qualifers, the Road Warriors are hoping to get back on track following their113-125 loss to San Miguel last Sept. 1, when assistant coach Jojo Lastimosa was at the helm.
“I’m excited to get back to competitive coaching with NLEX after almost three months,” said Guaio.
“(The) only problem is, we are facing the hottest team in the league right now. I think Blackwater is for real. We have to be at our best if we are to avoid being their next victim,” explained Guiao.
In the 7 p.m. main game, Magnolia hopes to bounce back from a stinging 82-95 loss to Phoenix last Sunday when it meets Rain or Shine.
“I think it will be a close game since both teams need to win this game,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.
“Galing sa talo, we need to bounce back and have that proper mindset going into the game. Defensively, we (Hotshots) need to be more aggressive and match up the intensity of Rain or Shine,” Victolero added .
The Hotshots posted successive emphatic wins over the Road Warriors (102-72) and Batang Pier (104-87) before suffering their first defeat in the season-ending tournament at the hands of the Fuel Masters.
The Elasto Painters played their first outing last Saturday in Passi City, Iloilo but lost 104-110 to the Tropang Texters.