San Miguel Beer and NLEX will try to stay on the winning track when they collide on Friday in the first of two PBA Governors' Cup games to be held at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai.
The match is set at 8 p.m. (12 a.m. in Manila), with the Road Warriors gunning for their fourth win in as many games, while the Beermen look to improve to 3-0.
"We are sure the fans here would see a very exciting game, one that is their money's worth," said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.
"Both teams have their own agenda, na hindi mawala sa itaas ng standings man lang," he added. "At the same time, gustong malaman ng bawa't isang team kung nasaan na siya as far as making a run for the title is concerned.
"This game should be a good gauge."
For NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, the game is a must-win as his squad will have little time to rest before taking on Barangay Ginebra at 6 p.m. Saturday (10 p.m. in Manila) in the same venue.
"It's a toughness test. It's a test of your physical and mental toughness," said Guiao.
"You win one game, it's good enough. Huwag lang dalawang talo. Pero iyung manalo ka ng dalawa that's a real indication of the physical and mental toughness of a team, being able to win on the road," he explained.
There is additional motivation for the Road Warriors, with Guiao saying: "Gusto rin nating makasama mga kababayan natin dito. Grabe init ng pagtanggap nila sa atin dito, hospitality ng mga kababayan natin dito sa Dubai."
"Nakaka-engganyong magbalik. Kaya kahit minsan mahirap maglaro ng sunod-sunod kami lang talaga iyung PBA team na kahit sunod-sunod titiisin namin para ma-enjoy lang namin Dubai," said Guiao, who will be coaching in Dubai for the fifth time.
While they are looking forward to putting on a show for the Filipinos in Dubai, the teams are also focused on exposing chinks in each other's armor.
"Our main concern is their outside shooting kasi 51 percent ng kanilang field goals nanggagaling sa 3-point shots," assessed Austria.
"It means all of them are licensed to take the perimeter shot so we have to extend our defense. But the problem there is they have a good big man, their import, who can work well in the shaded area. Kaya nagkakaroon ng luwag sa labas. Maraming shooters, meron kang pupuntahan sa inside," he added.
Olu Ashaolu has been superb for NLEX, averaging 25.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He has gotten plenty of help from the locals, led by Kiefer Ravena who is norming 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists for NLEX in his return from an 18-month suspension.
"Kita naman natin na Kiefer always wants to take over sa game at nagiging stabilizer siya ng team," noted Austria. "Pero hindi lang naman si Kiefer at iyung import."
"Nandiyan din iyung (Philip) Paniamogan, (Bong) Galanza, (Paul) Varilla, (Kenneth) Ighalo. Hindi lang sila one-way players, mga two-way players. We really need to have a good gameplan against them, then we will see what happens."
NLEX should also have its hands full, even though Marcio Lassiter and Christian Standhardinger remain gametime decisions for Austria.
"Kung may problema kami sa kanila, I think meron din silang concerns sa amin," said Austria.
June Mar Fajardo is steadily getting back to top form following an ankle injury, Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos have been a tear with averages of 16.5 and 14.0 points, respectively, while Terrence Romeo and Von Pessumal have also each given quality minutes.
SMB import Dez Wells has been virtually unstoppable, putting up averages of 33.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals an outing.
"He's a good fit for us," said Austria. "Pwede ring go-to guy because he can score in bunches, pero he's a team player first and 'yung mga teammates niya komportable sa kanya."
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