TNT, Phoenix look to keep rolling vs separate opponents

Games Today(PhilSports Arena)3 p.m. — Meralco vs Phoenix6 p.m. — TNT vs NLEX

TNT and Phoenix — teams that have overcome adversity to string up back-to-back victories — look to keep on rolling today against separate opponents in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena.

The Tropang Giga (2-1) gun for their third straight against skidding NLEX (2-2) at 6 p.m. with key players like Jayson Castro and Mikey Williams just fresh out of injuries.

Carrying the same mission in the 3 p.m. curtain-raiser are the Fuel Masters (2-3), who seek to make Meralco (1-3) their latest victims in this run amid their team owner’s financial troubles.

On the heels of their runner-up finish in the Philippine Cup, the Tropang Giga dealt with injury woes to begin their campaign. They lost to Magnolia with a 10-man crew, 94-92, but rebounded against NorthPort, 117-93, and Rain or Shine, 110-91, just as reliables such as Messrs. Williams and Castro started suiting up.

“We still have to get to a point where we play a good full 48 minutes,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes, noting how the 19-point triumph against the Steve Taylor-less ROS last time out was tainted by how badly the team conceded the second-quarter, 30-14.

“And that’s a process because we had so many injuries; we never really got complete until very, very late. Hopefully, we get a chance to win a lot of games while we’re trying to get there.”

Out to foil Mr. Reyes’ troops are the Road Warriors, who are driven to give new mentor Frankie Lim his maiden victory after falling flat against Phoenix and Magnolia in eerily identical losing scorelines of 111-97.

Meanwhile, after a 0-3 start, the hard-fighting Fuel Masters got their bearings against NLEX and Barangay Ginebra (101-93). This they did despite nasty talks going around on social media of the franchise being “up for sale” following news of the company’s woes.

“We took out ‘easy’ from our vocabulary because again, it’s not something that’s going to help us at this point, with everything that’s happening around us,” said Phoenix tactician Topex Robinson. “So we just embrace ‘hard’ and try to get better at handling ‘hard’.”

The Bolts are hard-pressed to climb out of one of their worst openings in an import-laced tournament.

“It’ a must-win situation for us,” said Meralco’s Norman Black, whose quintet absorbed a 106-99 loss to Converge last Saturday. “With Phoenix playing as well as they have been the last couple of games, we will have to be at our best, especially on the defensive end.”

The next-man-up mentality of Mr. Black’s charges will be put to a test again with ace playmaker Chris Newsome still out on calf injury. — Olmin Leyba