MANILA, Philippines – Yeng Guiao expects Phoenix to be a "totally different team" when his NLEX Road Warriors take on the Fuel Masters in the PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX won two of its three games against Phoenix in Guiao's first season in charge. The Fuel Masters were triumphant in the Philippine Cup, 102-91, but the Road Warriors took the next two encounters between the two squads.
Indeed, NLEX's 116-114 win over Phoenix in the Commissioner's Cup was one of only two wins for the Road Warriors in the conference.
Guiao is sure that the Fuel Masters will present a different challenge to them come Sunday, however. For one, Phoenix is now coached by Louie Alas, and it features a drastically different roster from last season.
"We are very aware of their capabilities," Guiao said on Wednesday. "They beat us in the preseason."
"They have the materials, especially with a healthy Matthew Wright. Nadagdag pa si Jeff Chan sa kanila, and then they have a really promising rookie in Jason Perkins," the coach observed. "Of course, Coach Louie is there."
"So it's a totally different team, a totally different challenge and approach."
The Road Warriors cannot afford to prepare for the Fuel Masters the same way that they did last season, Guiao added. This is why they are devoting plenty of time to their game plan for Phoenix: it was the first thing that Guiao and the NLEX coaching staff did upon their return from a brief holiday break.
"We're doing early preparation," he said. "That's how much we respect their capabilities."
There are other causes of concern for Guiao as his team seeks a third straight win in the All-Filipino Cup. They won their first two games of the conference, but the coach is worried that the break sapped the momentum generated by those triumphs.
"Over the holidays, marami masyadong distractions," he admitted. "We hope that we did not lose the conditioning, we hope we did not lose the sharpness that got us the two wins in the first place."
"The hangover from those distractions – maraming mga parties -- that takes you away from your regular routine. We want to just be able to mentally focus to get back that edge that we had before the vacation," he added.
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