By Jonas Terrado
(Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
4:15 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Phoenix
7 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs NLEX
TNT KaTropa begins a new life without longtime mainstay Ranidel de Ocampo as it tries to spoil NLEX’s bid to reclaim the solo lead tonight in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
KaTropa coach Nash Racela yesterday urged his team to “move forward and embrace the change” after De Ocampo’s nine-year association with the franchise ended Monday night when he was dealt to the Meralco Bolts in a three-team trade that also involved the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
Justin Chua and Norbert Torres were obtained in that deal as TNT solidified its current trend of having the young players run the show since Racela took charge this season.
“No one person can replace RDO, it takes everybody pitching in,” Racela said ahead of the 7 p.m. showdown with the Road Warriors. “Hopefully we could turn the corner right away the next game.”
Turning the corner is something TNT hasn’t done this conference. Despite a 5-3 record and with an inside track of the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals, the KaTropa haven’t been playing to their full potential, prompting Racela to describe his squad as “unstable.”
But with Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario slowly familiarizing with the team again after serving the national team last month, and import Glen Rice proving why he deserves to stay around after filling in for Michael Craig, the KaTropa could likely make a late surge.
Out to give this latest transition that hit TNT is its sister team NLEX, seeking to close in on a twice-to-beat in the quarters.
Tied with Ginebra at the top with identical 7-2 slates, NLEX would like nothing more than to get closer on that elusive bonus as it enters the final turn of the eliminations.
“Our mission is to get to eight wins ASAP. Two tough games to accomplish that, TNT is the first big hurdle,” said Guiao, whose team will conclude the elims against Star.
The fiery mentor is also hoping that the De Ocampo trade would benefit them, though wary of the KaTropa’s main weapons.
“We hope the RDO trade is going to create some adjustment issues that can work to our advantage. We need to pay attention to defending Jayson, Pogoy and their import to increase our chances of being the first to make the twice to beat advantage,” he added.
Rain or Shine looks to stay in contention for the twice-to-beat advantage in the 4:15 p.m. opener Phoenix, which has lost seven in a row after a 2-0 start.
The Elasto Painters are tied with the struggling Hotshots for sixth at 4-3, half-game behind the KaTropa and the San Miguel Beermen for fourth.
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