After notching their first back-to-back winning streak in the early goings of the Governors’ Cup, Petron looks to continue its hot streak as they face Air21 in the curtain raiser for tomorrow’s PBA double header at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Gunning for their third straight win against a deadly Express squad, the Blaze Boosters are riding the momentum of their masterful job in handing Rain Or Shine its first taste of defeat in the season-ending conference last Friday, with a 99-84 victory.
Gee Abanilla and his squad came out like a house on fire in that much-anticipated duel against erstwhile leaders Rain or Shine and shot 47% from the field that resulted to a comfortable lead all game long and played with composure in waving off any comeback attempts of Yeng Guiao’s boys with timely hits coming from Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos.
Despite facing a struggling Air21 team that has a 1-2 record and who are coming off a sorry loss against Barako Bull last Sunday, things won’t come easy for Petron as they need to play perfect basketball for full 48 minutes versus a very potent squad that has a prolific import in the person of Zach Graham.
Will the Blaze Boosters be able to grab win number 3? Or will they fall prey against the very dangerous Air21? What should they do to keep their winning streak alive? Let us check some keys to winning for Petron.
1. Lock the Zach
In Air21’s first three games this conference, Zach Graham has been nothing but a monster in the scoring department. The returning import is averaging 34.3 points on a 44% shooting clip to go along with 12 rebounds per game. Sounds very dangerous, right? Petron must limit Graham’s production or at least make him bleed for his points. Gee Abanilla needs to make Elijah Millsap, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz and Ronald Tubid work 200% all game long to body up against the Air21 import.
2. Dominate the Boards
Petron relies heavily on their transition offense and they have to work doubly hard to get more possessions for them to get more scoring chances. Going against Air21 who averages 48.8 boards a game, the Blaze Boosters who collected an average of 46.3 caroms in their first three games must out rebound the Express for them to get their transition game going. Petron needs to double their effort in the rebound battle and maximize their size advantage as three Blaze Boosters are in the top 10 rebounders this conference (June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos tied at 6th and 7th with 7.33 per game and Doug Kramer at the 8th spot with seven per game).
3. Keep up the Balanced Scoring
It is going to be a tough assignment for Air21 if Petron will have three to four guys scoring in double digits. The Blaze Boosters are a potent bunch of guys capable of lighting it up in any given night. In their first three games, four guys are averaging double digits in the scoring department with import Elijah Millsap leading the way with his 27 points per game output followed by Alex Cabagnot (14 ppg), Arwind Santos (13.6 ppg) and Marcio Lassiter (11.6 ppg). As long as the ball is shared very well, the Blaze Boosters will have little to no problems in scoring as other guys aside from the four mentioned can score at will if given the touches like Fajardo, Lutz and Tubid.
Key Match-Up: Elijah Millsap versus Zach Graham
This Petron-Air21 showdown will feature two of the best reinforcements in the league this conference. It will be a battle of two versatile wing men who can play multiple roles on the court. Zach Graham will be the Express’ primary source of points and he will be a marked man all game long for the Blaze Boosters. Elijah Millsap on the other hand, has shown he can play defense against imports that play bigger than him like Dior Lowhorn and AZ Reid. This will be an intense battle of relentless offense (Graham) against lockdown defense (Elijah Millsap).
This will be a tough game for Petron but as long as they continue doing what’s going right for them in their first three games and if they avoid playing with complacency, the Blaze Boosters should get their third straight win in the Governors’ Cup.