By Jonas Terrado
Ranidel de Ocampo begins the next phase of his career as a member of the Meralco Bolts while the Star Hotshots play for the first time since trading Allein Maliksi when the two teams face separate rivals tonight in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
De Ocampo hopes to make an immediate impact after being acquired from TNT KaTropa in Monday’s three-team trade as Meralco takes on streaking Alaska in the 4:15 p.m. opener for a chance at tying Barangay Ginebra San Miguel for the top spot.
Star, meanwhile, faces GlobalPort at 7 p.m., seeking to snap a three-game losing skid and validate its shock decision to send Maliksi to Blackwater over the weekend.
Both teams are eager to hurdle their respective assignments as the race for key playoff positions heats up in the season-ending conference.
TNT’s 112-107 win over NLEX Wednesday in Antipolo City created some changes in the team standings, with Meralco moving to second at 6-2, NLEX dropping to third at 7-3 and TNT climbing to fourth at 6-3.
A loss could jeopardize Meralco’s quest to secure a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters, with 5-3 teams San Miguel and Rain or Shine not far behind.
De Ocampo is out to show that he’s a key asset in the Bolts’ quest to win the crown and help the relatively young squad powered by Baser Amer, Cliff Hodge, Chris Newsome and Jared Dillinger.
But they face an Alaska team desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Aces have won three straight after a 0-6 start to move a game behind the Elite (4-5) for eighth place.
“Alaska’s is on a roll right now, they’re fighting for their lives and that’s not gonna be an easy game,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.
Star’s form has faded after a 4-0 start, and is need of beating GlobalPort to keep pace in the race for the twice-to-beat bonus.
The Hotshots got Bambam Gamalinda and Kyle Pascual in the Maliksi trade, pieces the team hopes would fit right along in coach Chito Victolero’s system.
GlobalPort is also hungry to score a victory as it would put them in a tie for Blackwater for eighth. The Batang Pier enter the match carrying a 3-5 record.
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