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PBA: Alaska, San Miguel press semifinal bids

PBA Kia Sorento vs Purefoods - November 26, 2014 (photos by Tony Pionilla

James Yap

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – NLEX vs Alaska
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Meralco

Manila, Philippines – Joint-leaders Alaska and San Miguel Beer hope to stay locked in power when they take on separate opponents today in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the within grasp outright semifinal berths firmly in their minds.

The Aces meet the NLEX Road Warriors at 4:15 p.m., while the Beermen face the Meralco Bolts at 7 p.m.

Alaska and SMB are tied with 7-1 win-loss records and hug the inside track in the race for Final Four slots. Meralco is at solo 7th spot with a 4-4 slate; NLEX at 9th with a 3-5 card, both of them looking to keep a hold on potential playoff spots.

Alaska is coming off an 87-84 cliffhanger over Globalport in Cagayan de Oro last Saturday, while San Miguel has racked up four straight wins going to this game, the latest a 95-69 rout of hard-lucked Globalport on Tuesday.

Their first meeting this season, however, saw the Aces, behind the 18 points of Cyrus Baguio, the 11 of Jayvee Casio and the 18 rebounds of Calvin Abueva, pulling off a pulsating 66-63 victory over the Beermen on Nov. 5.

Both the Road Warriors and the Bolts are looking to recover lost ground after recent defeats, NLEX a 95-93 heartbreaker to Rain or Shine and Paul Lee last Tuesday and Meralco a similar gut-wrenching loss to Grand Slam champion Purefoods, 77-74, in Binan, Laguna.

Only eight playdates remain in the elimination round where the top two teams advance to the semis and the bottom two are ousted. The eight teams in between go through the two-phase quarterfinal playoffs, with the 3rd- to 6th-ranked teams holding twice-to-beat advantages over the 4th- to 10th-seeded ballclubs. The four remaining teams then meet in crossover knockout matches to complete the cast in the best-of-7 semifinals.

The championship series will also be a best-of-7 affair.

Purefoods, which completed the PBA’s fifth Grand Slam last year and is looking to match the legendary Crispa Redmanizers as league champions for six straight conferences, took another step towards its fifth consecutive title by beating highly-energized Kia Motors, 88-77, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo last Friday.

The Hotshots’ fourth straight victory spoiled the return of eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao as playing-coach of the Kia Sorento following a dominant unanimous decision win over American challenger Chris Algieri in Macau.

Motivated by the presence of their internationally renowned mentor and teammate, the Sorento fought tenaciously to give their benefactor a homecoming victory and were at their finest hour in the first half as they led early and tied Purefoods, 34-all, during the break.

But they were undone in the third quarter when the Hotshots tightened up on defense, forcing Kia into successive backcourt turnovers and fuelling their own running game.

PBA Kia Sorento vs Purefoods - November 26, 2014 (photos by Tony Pionilla

PBA Commissioner Rodrigo Salud with Boxing Champ Manny Pacquiao

Pacquiao, who sent Algieri to the canvas at least five times, didn’t play however as earlier announced. Evidently, after he winced while putting on his team jacket as he was about to be presented with a symbolic ball by PBA commissioner Chito Salud and Antipolo City Mayor Jun-Jun Ynares III at mid-court before the game, the 12 rounds with Algieri had left him physically drained, notwithstanding his commanding performance that day.

Kia officially bowed out of playoff contention with its eighth straight loss after an opening day victory over fellow expansion team Blackwater, a game Pacquiao saw action in for the first seven minutes at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

PUREFOODS 88 – Devance 16, Barroca 15, Mallari 12, Yap 12, Pingris 9, Maliksi 9, Simon 6, Taha 5, Reavis 4, Melton 0, Gaco 0, Matias 0, Allado 0, Holstein 0.

KIA 77 – Cervantes 14, Revilla 12, Dehesa 11, Alvarez 10, Custodio 10, Pascual 8, Raymundo 6, Webb 4, Burtscher 2, Saldua 0, Buensuceso 0, Pacquiao 0, Ighalo 0, Sanga 0.

Quarters: 17-17, 34-34, 51-57, 88-77