A look at some of the highlights and sidelights from the first week of the 37th season of your Philippine Basketball Association.
Paul Lee is not just for real, he’s Lee-thal too. Who starts their career right on opening day, in a hostile environment against the crowd darlings of the PBA and drops 21 points, grabs and dishes eight dimes with two takeaways? Seriously? And he follows it up with a 19-point, five-rebound and three-assist performance to lead his team to a 2-0 start in the Philippine Cup. Whether you’re a fan of his or not, you gotta admit, he’s one guy you’re gonna have to deal with for years to come.
Another rookie put all debates to rest as Petron’s Chris Lutz burst on the scene to justify his 3rd overall selection by averaging 18 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 3.5 steals as the Governor’s Cup champs went back-to-back to finish the week with a share of the top spot in the standings. Lutz was not alone though, Arwind Santos proved once again that he is the force behind Petron’s success with a couple of double-doubles to register a jaw dropping, two-game line of 16.5 ppg and 15 rpg. Alex Cabagnot (19.5ppg 5.5rpg 3.5apg) and Danny Ildefonso (8.0ppg 9.5rpg) have been solid and the addition of Carlo Sharma (10.5ppg) has made Petron strike fear in the hearts of the opposition once again. Even with Dondon Hontiveros out for a couple of weeks, leaving the Blaze Boosters down to a few good men, these guys are still a force to reckon with. They play Shopinas next on Sunday at the Big Dome.
After being glued to the Gilas bench the last couple of years, Japeth Aguilar unleashed his frustration on the hapless Bolts. Japeth pumped in 19 of his 27 points in the first half, punctuated by a fastbreak jam (that put his former Gilas teammate, Jason Ballesteros, on the wrong end of his poster) to lead the inspired attack of the Tropang Texters blowing Meralco off the Ynares Antipolo floor.
The Bolts were already playing minus Sol Mercado but lost Mac Cardona five minutes into the contest. TnT was also without reigning MVP Jimmy Alapag, 2007 MVP Kelly Williams and Ranidel De Ocampo. Scary thought if you’re not with the TnT Nation. The defending champions test RoS on Friday in Cubao.
Ginebra takes on Barako Bull also on Friday.
Barangay Ginebra is still deadliest when they get out on the open floor. Leading Alaska by just four late in the third quarter, the Kings went on a 15-3 run highlighted by seven-straight points from Jayjay Helterbrand early in the final frame to put the Aces away. And after having to rely on their reserves in a comeback bid that came up short on opening day, Mark Caguioa (16 points), Niño Canaleta (17 pts 7 rebs) and the rest of the key players were on the floor all the way to the final buzzer to ensure the victory. It must be noted though that Mac Baracael debuted with 20 points and was booed by the Gin Kings’ faithful at the free throw line late in the game. That shouldn’t mean disrespect, but rather realization of his ability to hurt their beloved.
B-Meg and Tim Cone’s triangle will need some time. James Yap went 4-of-17 FGs, Joe De Vance and Kerby Raymundo combined for 7-of-21 as the Llamados dropped their opening game last Wednesday at the Cuneta. PJ Simon was the only player who had a good offensive night (21 pts 9/14 FGs) but got most of those as he veered away from the system when they were playing catch up. And it doesn’t get easier for B-Meg as they next take on Alaska this coming Wednesday at the Araneta. A team trying to learn against a team that ate, slept and lived the triangle for the last few years, should make for a very interesting matchup. - OMG, GMA News