Boyet Fernandez expects tight battle v ROS as playoff race heats up

NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez knows the Road Warriors face a tall order as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive in the PBA Governors Cup.

But the two-year-old PBA franchise must start winning this Sunday when NLEX clashes with resurgent Rain or Shine in the opening game at 4:30 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Road Warriors have been on a roller coaster ride this conference, winning just three out of their first eight games.

“Opportunity iyan sa amin kasi we’re playing teams that either have the same losses with us or the same wins with us, so sa amin, a win for us in our next games will give us a better chance for the playoffs,” Fernandez told FOX Sports on Saturday.

After Rain or Shine, NLEX’s last two games include Alaska and GlobalPort, two teams that have equally struggled this conference with their similar 3-5 records.

But Fernandez knows playing against the Elasto Painters won’t be easy since the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup champion is coming off a 103-88 beating of Mahindra Enforcer on Friday.

The NLEX mentor is actually wary of Rain or Shine’s solid local crew led by Paul Lee, Beau Belga, vastly improved big man JR Quinahan, Raymond Almazan and Jericho Cruz.

“Ang lalakas kasi ng locals nila eh kaya hindi indicative yung 4-4 na record nung Rain or Shine na di sila malakas. Siguro natiyempuhan lang na natatalo sila sa endgame (in the past),” observed Fernandez.

An added headache, Fernandez said, is Rain or Shine’s new import Jason Forte, whom he expects to get more playing time since debuting with just 10 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes against Mahindra.

“Kahapon (Friday) lang namin nakita si Forte even though he only played 17 minutes and missed seven free throws out of eight,” he said.

“But if you see him in past games with Alaska, iba ang laro niya eh. So baka jetlag lang

kaya ang worry namin, baka makabawi siya sa amin.”

Henry Walker will be at the forefront of NLEX’s playoff drive as he averages 31.62 points and 10.25 rebounds this conference.

The local crew of Asi Taulava, Sean Anthony, Jonas Villanueva and sophomore guard Kevin Alas are also expected to deliver the goods for NLEX. – Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava