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James Yap of Purefoods Star tries to keep control of the ball against the tight defense of Alaska's Calvin Abueva. Sports5.Paul Ryan Tan

Reigning champion Purefoods Star Hotshots look to keep its title defense bid rolling as they begin their best-of-three quarterfinals series against the Alaska Aces at the start of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs Friday at SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Purefoods and Alaska collide at 7 p.m. after the sister squads NLEX Road Warriors and Meralco Bolts also open their own best-of-three affair at 4:15 p.m. Both games will be aired live on TV5.

The Hotshots, which finished third in the standings, seem to have an edge against the sixth-seed Aces this conference after a 108-88 rout in their last encounter on February 3.

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Thaddeus Young of Brooklyn Nets has strained left knee (March 27, 2015)
Mike Mazzeo [ Source: ESPN ]

Brooklyn's Thaddeus Young will miss at least one game with a left knee strain. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Brooklyn Nets power forward Thaddeus Young suffered a left knee strain in Wednesday night's 91-88 win over the Charlotte Hornets, an MRI revealed.

Young will not play in Friday night's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and is doubtful for Sunday afternoon's game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the team announced.

Young suffered the injury late in the third quarter and did not return. He collided with Hornets guard Gerald Henderson as the two ran toward the lane on a change of possession. Young's knee buckled, and he went down to the floor in agony. He had to be helped up and then limped to the locker room under his own power.

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Meralco Bolts import Josh Davis. Sports5/Paul Ryan Tan

NLEX and Meralco look to nail the crucial series opener in their showdown that features an explosive head-to-head between imports Al Thornton and Josh Davis.

The No.4 Road Warriors dispatched the No.5 Bolts, 89-76, in their last matchup on February 27.

Bolts reinforcement Josh Davis was still nursing his lower back injury in that game.

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Alaska head coach Alex Compton. Sports5/Paul Ryan Tan

When Alaska coach Alex Compton entered the media room following his team's victory against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, he seemed to be as spent up as the players who actually played in the game.

His team not only survived a do-or-die game under the pressure of a hostile crowd, but won by just enough points to reach the quotient requirement to clinch the sixth seed and avoided twice-to-win disadvantage in the playoffs.

But the Aces are not out of the woods yet as they face defending champion Purefoods in a best-of-three series.

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Metta World Peace says he has matured as a player (March 27, 2015)
Associated Press [ Source: ESPN ]

Metta World Peace, who has signed with Italian team Pallacanestro Cantu, says after an "up and down career" he has a more mature mentality. AP Photo/Luca Bruno

MILAN -- Heading into the swan song of his career, former NBA All-Star Metta World Peace is a changed man.

World Peace, who signed for Pallacanestro Cantu in a move the Italian team called "the coup of the century," is known as much for his controversies as for his on-court talent.

"I had an up and down career," the 35-year-old World Peace said Thursday. "I grew up playing basketball on the streets of New York City and it was very, very rough and I started playing in the NBA in the same way.

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NLEX import Al Thornton. Sports5/Paul Ryan Tan

After finishing 10th in the Philippine Cup, NLEX barged into the playoffs this conference and gave themselves a good chance of going into the semifinals of the Commissioner's Cup.

The Road Warriors will face Meralco, which is also owned by Manuel V. Pangilinan, on Friday for the first game in their best-of-three quarterfinal series/

But for head coach Boyet Fernandez, they have no plans of holding back against their sister team.

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International Basketball

Former FEU Tamaraw Michael Oliver, the new coach of the Philippine national youth basketball team, admitted to feeling the pressure after taking over a Batang Gilas squad that reached new heights in international play after wildly successful stints under his predecessor, Jamike Jarin.

Jarin, who steered ‘Batang Gilas’ to the FIBA Under-17 World Championship, has since moved on to call the shots for the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA, leaving some big shoes to fill for Oliver over at the youth program.

“First time ko to be the head coach of the national team. Malaki rin ang pressure kasi mataas yung level na na-set ni Coach Jamike. Nakapasok pa tayo sa World,” Oliver told InterAksyon.com in a telephone interview.

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Tim Cone of Purefoods Star. Sports5/Paul Ryan Tan

MANILA, Philippines -- Purefoods Star coach Tim Cone expects his team to have a tough series against Alaska in the PBA Commissioner's Cup playoffs.

Cone said that they may be among the top three teams after the elimination round, but the Aces, whom he used to coach, will be hard to beat.

“Alaska it is, and we probably could not have picked a tougher opponent,” said the Hotshots coach said in the PBA website.

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Aldridge to visit Manila? (March 27, 2015)
Joaquin Henson [ Source: Philippine Star ]

NBA

MANILA, Philippines - Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge plans to do things he’s never done before, including a visit to Manila this summer and playing for the US at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year, the NBA All-Star disclosed in an overseas conference call where The Star participated the other day. But his focus at the moment is leading the Blazers to the playoffs and a shot at the championship.

Aldridge, 29, is nursing a torn ligament in his left thumb and a few days ago, sprained his left index finger. The 6-11, 240-pound Dallas native, however, isn’t considering surgery and will play through the pain for the chance to bring the Blazers all the way to the throne. This season, he’s averaging a career-high 23.5 points. He’s also hitting career-highs in free throw percentage at .853 and three-point percentage at .373. In 61 games so far, Aldridge has knocked down 31 triples compared to a total of 24 he scored in his first eight seasons.

Portland is running fourth in the Western Conference with a 44-25 record, first in the Northwest Division. Last season, the Blazers posted a 54-28 record, a 21-win improvement from the previous campaign, and eliminated Houston, 4-2, before losing to eventual champion San Antonio, 4-1, in the playoffs.

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BPC race down to Castro, Lee, Slaughter (March 27, 2015)
Nelson Beltran [ Source: Philippine Star ]

 Paul Lee of Rain or Shine, Ginebra center Greg Slaughter and Talk n Text's Jayson Castro. Philippine Star photo

MANILA, Philippines – Through the elims, Junemar Fajardo of San Miguel, Talk n Text’s Jayson Castro, Paul Lee of Rain or Shine, Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter and Terrence Romeo of Globalport were among the leading contenders for the Best Player of the Conference award for the PBA Commissioner’s, stats-wise.

However, Fajardo and Romeo may have kissed their hopes goodbye with their teams failing to make the playoffs.

Looking for a second straight BPC plum, Fajardo averaged 16.45 points and 12.64 rebounds in the elims. Castro normed 17.09 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists, Lee 16.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists, Slaughter 16.18 points and 9.6 rebounds, and Romeo 20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

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