(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. – Blackwater vs NorthPort
6 p.m. – NLEX vs Magnolia
Undefeated Magnolia got a free ride to move on top of the standings following a huge win by sister team Barangay Ginebra San Miguel over Bay Area in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup last Sunday.
Now, the Hotshots will try to do their part of keeping their perfect record intact when they battle NLEX in the main game of a scheduled double-header on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game time is at 5:45 p.m. following the match between Blackwater and NorthPort set at 3 p.m.
The Hotshots had been finding ways to win despite practically having a banged-up team. Among those injured are two key personnel – head coach Chito Victolero and import Nick Rakocevic.
Victolero will literally walk wounded as he called the shots from the sidelines with an aircast to protect his injured Achilles.
Victolero, a one-time champion coach, confirmed to Daily Tribune that he will either use a mobility scooter or walk with crutches as he makes his way to the Big Dome to guide the Hotshots to their fourth win in this midseason conference.
“First week, I won’t be able to put pressure on my left Achilles. It’s either I will be in a mobility scooter or in crutches, but I will still be able to coach the team,” said Victolero, who underwent an operation to repair his raptured Achilles tendon last Friday.
Previous reports have it that Victolero suffered the injury while playing pick-up basketball. It was the same injury that derailed the careers of National Basketball Association stars like Kevin Durant, John Wall, and Klay Thompson.
He, however, was still able to run the Magnolia practice on Tuesday.
Rakocevic, on the other hand, has been playing in pain, yet remained to be efficient in helping the Hotshots to three straight victories.
The 24-year-old American-Serbian forward has been bothered by a right knee injury, but neither injury nor his much bigger opponents can slow him down.
Magnolia governor Rene Pardo confirmed that Rakocevic will continue to play for them.
“Our import is practicing with the team wearing a knee brace and is good to go for Wednesday’s game,” wrote Pardo via Messenger.
Pardo added that they are in talks with several prospects on the event that Rakocevic’s injury gets even worse.
“We are always in talks (with other prospects) just in case he suddenly leaves or gets injured. Although we are very satisfied with Nick in practice on Tuesday.”
The Hotshots will be taking on a Road Warriors squad that is coming off a 97-111 loss to Phoenix.
NLEX head coach Frankie Lim’s debut as coach of NLEX was spoiled by a more inspired Fuel Masters who played with a sense of urgency amid talks of the possible sale of their PBA franchise.
The Road Warriors are tied with Ginebra with a 2-1 win-loss card at the third spot and a victory will push them to second place behind the Dragons (4-1) in the early stretch of this conference.