D-League: Do-or-die for Final 4 squads
Blackwater Sports (1) vs (1) Cagayan Valley Rising Suns
When they last met... With their backs against the wall, Blackwater scored an 87-79 win over the Rising Suns to extend the series to Tuesday. The Sports received balanced contributions from its players who played unselfishly for one goal: live another day.
Why this game is important...
For Blackwater: Pride. Bragging rights. Even though these are not really heavy factors, the Elites wants to barge into the Finals for the first time. They had the luxury of having a long rest before starting their semifinals series against Cagayan. Now, it boils down to one last game. One win away for the right to be a part of the last dance this conference.
For Cagayan: Their Cinderella-like fairytale is about to reach the end of the story. Will they make their dream come true or will they just settle for second-best? Definitely not for this Cagayan team that we're seeing. Revamped. Improved. Taller. Skilled. Versatile. Deep.
For Blackwater: Maturity. Team work. Good shots selection. They have no other choice but to mature overnight and work as a team if they want to stay alive for the final chapter of this story.
For Cagayan: Never let this slip away would be the perfect tagline for Cagayan. Their magical run may seem like a dream but if they try to pinch themselves, this is reality. If they want to prove that they are no longer pushovers, now's the time to do so. Almazan, Bringas, Exciminiano and Poligrates will have to erupted and exploded in one game, all forty minutes of it in order to finish their story the way they want it to end.
And the winner is… Experience-wise, the Rising Suns have more matured, more experienced players than that of Blackwater. Add to that the fact that Cagayan is well-supported in all aspects from the management to the crowd support. They even have drummers from San Sebastian present every game to boost their game up. Cagayan Valley
SECOND MATCHUP: NLEX vs. Air21-JRU
Series is tied at 1-1
Game One Result: 105-85 in favor of NLEX
Game Two Result: 108-94 in favor of JRU
WHEN THEY LAST MET…..The Road Warriors didn't know what hit them. Complacency perhaps? But having a really deep lineup up to their third or fourth stringers, the Road Warriors are sure winners. Maybe, Air21-JRU just prayed hard and worked harder when they know they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
WHY THIS GAME IS IMPORTANT:
For NLEX: They are the defending champion. In all three seasons of the league, they were always on top at the end of the season. If they don't work the way they do, this could mean the end of a dynasthree.
For Air21-JRU: They are the rookies, the newest kids on the block, the neophytes, the freshmen. For everyone who doubted the Heavy Bombers, this team has overachieved already. They have nothing more to prove. But, to enter the Finals would be the icing on top of the icing on the cake. They wouldn't get the same opportunity twice in a row, so why not go all out, die for the ball and play as if it's your last? What's at stake is a semi-ticket for them if they want to reach the next level of basketball, the pro ranks.
For NLEX: Bench depth. Talent. Discipline. Familiarity. No other team can match up with the bonding and familiarity of the Road Warriors with each other. Games in the league or games abroad when some of them represented the country can attest that they know each other very well and that is an edge for four-peat seeking NLEX.
For Air21-JRU: Outside shooting. If there is one aspect that the Heavy Bombers should live with, it's outside shooting. But, they cannot solely rely on one shooter alone. Byron Villarias cannot do a one-man show. Philip Paniamogan and John Pinto has to show up as well in game 3. Dexter Maiquez is a given already alongside Jeckter Apinan. Former Air21 Express Khasim Mirza, given his maturity and experience also has to act as a leader with a bit of production if he plans to lead this team as one to the finish line.
AND THE WINNER IS…..In all honesty, everyone is expecting NLEX to finish this story but for the underdogs lovers out there, even if it sounds impossible, a handful at least would want Air21-JRU to eliminate the Road Warriors. That will not only be a part of PBA D-League history but it will also serve as an inspiration for other teams that they too can do a JRU. But, again, talent-wise, hands-down, NLEX will top that list out of ten teams. They have a number of MVPs in their lineup, what more could you ask for?