PHX and BLA are on two different boats right now, with the Fuel Masters in the middle of the pack at 4-4 and the Elite bringing up the rear at 1-7. A win here for PHX can make them soar into the top 5 and officially boot the Elite from playoff contention, while a win for BLA will leave the door open for them to make it to the next round (although they will have to win all their remaining games to maybe even do so).
PHX is currently on a 2-game winning streak, beating NLX & STA back to back. Eugene Phelps was huge in their last game, dropping 45 points on the Hotshots, and they will lean on him again here against the embattled Elite. They also got some good production from Willie Wilson, Ronjay Buenafe, and Cyrus Baguio, and those guys will also be expected to make an impact here. For a while this conference, PHX looked to be in deep trouble, but winning two in a row seems to have really done wonders for their confidence as they head into this important game.
As for BLA, their season, quite literally, is on the line here against PHX. They’ve lost their last six contests, and that has really propelled them down a tailspin. They are all by their lonesome at the very bottom of the cellar, and there aren’t any clear signs that they will be able to make it to the next round, unless they show signs of life here against PHX. Of course, having Eric Dawson injured was bad, but they have new import Keala King around, and maybe he can inject some new energy into the Elite’s reeling campaign.
Interestingly enough, BLA and PHX have split their games this season. That means BLA may have a better than legitimate shot at inflicting a dent on PHX’s chances and padding their own odds ever so slightly.
1. BLA: NEW KING IN TOWN
– Keala King is a 25 year old former top HS prospect in the States. He stands 6’5 and went undrafted in the NBA in 2014. He played for Arizona State and Long Beach State in the US NCAA before moving to Pikeville in the 2013-2014 season. He has also played in Spain and most recently saw action for the HiTech Thonburi club in the Thailand Basketball League. He will have pretty big shoes to fill as Dawson was effective when healthy for BLA.
Stats in Spain: 9.5ppg, 8.2rpg, 2.5apg, 44.0 FG%
Dawson Stats: 18.2ppg, 15.2rpg, 4.7apg, 2.3spg, 2.2bpg, 45.6 FG%
2. BLA: ARTHUR ASCENDS
– With Eric Dawson out, Arthur Dela Cruz has been one of the players ascending for the Elite. He has scored 20+ points in two of the last three games, and it stands to reason he will continue to be a main focal point of the Elite’s play here. This presents an opportunity for him to shine, and if he can do so, BLA will be all the better for it.
First 5 games: 4.6ppg, 1.8rpg, 40.0 FG%
Last 3 games: 17.7ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.7apg, 2.3spg, 69.4 FG%
3. BLA: DRUNK WITH TURNOVERS
– One big reason why BLA has been on a losing streak is turnovers. The Elite turned the ball over 23 times against ALA, letting the Aces score 38 points off those turnovers. That’s a big no-no for any basketball team in any level of basketball, so that’s something they will have to check in this game.
TOs – ALA 16, BLA 23
Dela Cruz – 3TOs
Lastimosa – 4TOs
Melano – 3TOs
Pts off TOs – ALA 38, BLA 14
4. PHX: FANTASTIC PHELPS
– Phelps remained a bullstrong player for the Fuel Masters, dropping 45 and 17 on the Hotshots. There is a good chance he’ll have another strong game here, especially with Dawson out and King playing in just his first game. Phelps needs to take advantage of that situation and dominate again for PHX.
vs STA: 45pts, 17rebs, 3asts, 1stl, 2blks, 17/29 FGs.
Stats: 39.6ppg, 19.6rpg, 3.6apg, 57.5 FG%
5. PHX: WILLIE’S WAR
– Willie Wilson has been quite inconsistent this conference, but he has played pretty well his last two outings — both wins. He has provided a huge lift for the Fuel Masters with his steady and strong play from the frontline, and the Fuel Masters will look for more of the same here.
First 4 games: 6.8ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.5apg, 57.9 FG%
Last 2 games: 11.0ppg, 9.5rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0bpg, 61.5 FG%
6. PHX: PRETTY PLAYMAKING
– One reason PHX won pretty handily against STA was playmaking. The Fuel Masters spread the wealth and handed out 24 assists. They assisted on 24 of their 39 made field goals — a good percentage, and if they continue to do that here, that’ll be a very good sign of things to come.
Asts – PHX 24, STA 19
Cruz – 5asts
Baguio – 4asts
Borboran – 3asts
Phelps – 3asts
Urbiztondo – 3asts
7. KEY MATCH-UP: CARLO LASTIMOSA X CYRUS BAGUIO
– It’s a young gun versus a grizzled veteran that will be featured in this game’s key match-up. Lastimosa is as explosive as they come, while Baguio is the steady, reliable veteran presence for PHX. It’ll be an interesting and intriguing battle of contrasts between these two talents. We’ll see if Lastimosa can step up to give his squad a huge lift, or if Baguio’s energy and athleticism can hamper him.
Lastimosa last game: 18pts, 1ast, 2 triples, 8/11 FGs.
Baguio last game: 11pts, 4rebs, 4asts, 1stl, 1 triple, 5/7 FGs.
Lastimosa stats: 16.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.6apg, 47.0 FG%.
Baguio stats: 1.7ppg, 3.3rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0spg, 1.0bpg, 47.2 FG%.