Magnolia Pambansang Manok and champion import Romeo Travis face Meralco and topnotch reinforcement Allen Durham in an intriguing matchup to start their title defense in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Saturday.
It's an explosive tiff to highlight the first Petron Blaze Saturday Special in the season-ending tourney, pitting the titleholder versus coach Norman Black's team which has never missed at least the Final Four in the last three editions of the Governors' Cup.
Tip off is at 6:45 p.m.
Travis and the Hotshots won the crown over the Alaska Milk Aces last year while Durham and the Bolts barely missed another shot at the crown following runner-up finishes behind the Barangay Ginebra Kings in 2016 and 2017.
Travis and Durham, huge factors in their respective teams' A1 showings in this tourney, could still be on top of their game, and both are hopeful of again contending for the crown.
At 34, Travis logged averages of 15.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.1 blocks for the Mono Vampire in the recent ABL season.
Durham, 31, meanwhile, collected 22.3 points, 13.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game with the Shiga Lakestars in the Japan B. League.
But he'll be a marked man in the PBA, being back-to-back Best Import winner in Meralco's back-to-back runner-up finishes behind Ginebra.
Durham, however, will have a more dependable frontcourt backup now in Raymond Almazan.
Then there's the old Meralco core group including Baser Amer, Reynel Hugnatan, Ranidel de Ocampo, Nico Salva, KG Canaleta, Bryan Faundo and Chris Newsome.
Travis will again work with his old Magnolia teammates led by China World Cup campaigners Mark Barroca and Paul Lee.
And the Hotshots could be a lot tougher with Pingris back in harness, teaming up with fellow frontcourt operators Ian Sangalang, Rafi Reavis and Rodney Brondial.(SB)