League-leading NLEX, on a roll with five straight victories, has made it a point not to lower its guard at this point in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
“We need to preserve our gains by improving our consistency and this game is a big test,” said Road Warriors’ coach Yeng Guiao, referring to their 4:30 p.m. encounter with NorthPort today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors are riding on a string of five victories capped by a come-from-behind 86-85 win over Magnolia last Sunday in a game where Manny Harris, JR Quinahan and Jericho Cruz combined for 49 points.
The Road Warriors have already secured a spot in top four with their 8-1 win-loss slate, but Guiao has made it clear they won’t take their remaining two games lightly, more so today’s game against the Batang Pier who are fighting for life.
“Our focus is on execution and trying to get better for the next round,” said Guiao, looking wary of their meeting with the Batang Pier – a team which, he said, could have gone better had Robert Bolick been around and had Christian Standhardinger joined them much earlier.
“If NorthPort hadn’t lost Robert Bolick and C-Stand (Christian Standhardinger) had come in earlier with their new import they would be higher in the standings,” noted Guiao.
The Batang Pier, who lost their last two games, are currently sharing the 8th and 9th slots with Alaska. A win today will put them back to magic 8, and Guiao knows the Batang Pier would give his Road Warriors a good fight.
NorthPort is expected to rely heavily on Michael Qualls, who has been averaging 34.0 points, 14.3 rebounds, 2.67 assists, 2.0 steals, 1.67 blocks, and Standhardinger, who has been averaging 25 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists.
The Batang Pier could even make it outright if they beat NLEX and Barangay Ginebra on Sunday. A split would make them fall into playoff for the last spot at most or get booted out altogether.
“It does not make them any less dangerous when we play them tomorrow (today),” stressed Guiao.
The Road Warriors are doing pretty fine this conference in a stark contrast to their showing in the last Commissioner’s Cup where they finished last at 3-8, and in Philippine Cup where they were eliminated after mustering 4-8 record.
Alaska, meanwhile, tries to bolster its own playoff bid as it takes on Phoenix in the main offering at 7 p.m.
The Aces are currently occupying no. 8 with a 3-6 slate, while the Fuel Masters are already out of the running with 2-7 record. Arman Carandang
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