PBA: Magnolia vs Aces tonight.
by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. - NLEX vs Meralco
6:45 p.m. - Magnolia vs Alaska
Import Romeo Travis will meet his former team for the first time tonight as Magnolia and Alaska clash for a chance at solidifying their grip on the top four slot in the PBA Governors' Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Travis is perhaps determined to give Alaska a glimpse of what they've missed in the 6:45 p.m. match after the Aces opted not to tap the former high school teammate of LeBron James despite leading them to the Governors' Cup Finals in 2015.
The lefty reinforcement also won the Best Import award that year but Alaska was swept by San Miguel Beer in the title series.
But the Aces are likely to be hardly affected as their current import Mike Harris has powered the squad to a 4-1 start for third place behind the Hotshots' 6-1 slate.
The two imports have made themselves among the early candidates for the Best Import award.
Travis is averaging 22.6 points, 15.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per game with Harris producing 26.7 points, 19.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 blocks.
Both teams are also banking on their locals to deliver, with Magnolia having Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon and Ian Sangalang while Alaska parading Chris Banchero, Vic Manuel and Simon Enciso.
Lee, who recently became a new dad with the birth of baby daughter Tokyo, and Banchero, who leads the league in assists at 10.5 per game, are playing inspired basketball for their respective teams.
Facing off in the 4:30 p.m. curtainraiser are NLEX and Meralco, two clubs owned by Manny V. Pangilinan with contrasting fortunes.
The Road Warriors are no longer in contention for a twice-to-beat advantage but still hold their fortunes when it comes to the race for the quarterfinals.
NLEX is at 4-4 but coach Yeng Guiao admitted that the team's back-to-back losses to Ginebra and Phoenix are a cause for concern.
Meralco, on the other hand, is in a desperate situation after falling to 1-6 with a 99-94 defeat at the hands of NorthPort two nights ago at the MOA Arena.
The Bolts have never won since their opening day victory over the Columbian Dyip, putting reigning Best Import Allen Durham in an unusual situation.
Durham has been used to leading the Bolts to the Finals in the previous two editions of the tournament, losing both times to Ginebra.
Despite registering 27.9 points, 17.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists for Meralco, Durham is left with no choice but deal with the team's miserable run.
Romeo Travis of the Magnolia Hotshots slams it home against Mark Borboran of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. MB photo | (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)