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Bolts, Painters try to join TNT on top

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Meralco vs Barako Bull
7 p.m. – SMB vs Rain or Shine

Solo leader Talk ‘N Text could have company before the day is over – unless the Meralco Bolts and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters mess up the opportunity.

At 6-2 win-loss, the Tropang Texters hug the inside track in the race for twice-to-beat slots in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal playoffs, but both Meralco (5-2) and Rain or Shine (5-2) can turn the final stretch of the elimination into a three-team struggle.

The Bolts are looking to rebound from back-to-back losses when they face the Barako Bull Energy at 4:15 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum while the E-Painters are riding the crest of a three-game winning streak when they take on embattled Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer.

Barako Bull has lost its last two games and is locked in a 4-way tie at fifth place on 4-4 cards with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Globalport and the NLEX Road Warriors. SMB, meanwhile, continue to grope for the form that powered to the first conference championship, mired at 11th spot with a 2-6 slate.

It has been almost four weeks since Meralco won, an 86-84 cliffhanger against Globalport on Feb. 15, and it has been a spiral down since. The Bolts were routed by SMB and comebacking import Arizona Reid, 102-86, in Cagayan de Oro on Feb. 21, and then dumped by the NLEX Road Warriors and Al Thornton, 89-76, on Feb. 27.

It was in the SMB game that Meralco import Josh Davis took a frightening fall after sliding off Beermen center Junmar Fajardo and crashing to the floor on his back, injuring his hip.

Bolts coach Norman Black says, however, that Davis is a lot better now although his team still faces an uphill battle.

“We enter the game with the mindset of having to win to get a chance at the twice to beat advantage,” said Black. “The keys are we have to get back on defense, challenge their outside shooters and try to control (Solomon) Alabi inside the paint. On offense, with Davis healthy, we just want to play better than we have our last two games.”

Rain or Shine, on the other hand, is eyeing its fourth consecutive win after humbling defending champion Purefoods Star, 78-71, in Dipolog City on Valentine’s Day, turning back Philippine Cup finalist Alaska, 99-89, on Feb. 20, and taming Barako Bull, 103-91, on Feb. 27.

Barako Bull has bowed to Rain or Shine and then SMB, 102-91, in its last two games.