Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Kia vs NLEX
7 p.m. – SMB vs Talk ‘N Text
Purefoods Star import Denzel Bowles claimed the big numbers, but backup center Mick Pennisi was hands-down choice in the best pose category.
Bowles scored 34 points and seized 17 rebounds in 37:53 minutes to help the defending champion Hotshots overcome tenacious Barako Bull, 103-96, last night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
At 7-3 win-loss with a 3-game streak, Purefoods took solo second place behind the Meralco Bolts, taking the high ground as it tries to keep Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine at bay for the second twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.
Joe Devance added 15 points with three 3-point shots and Allein Maliksi was 6 of 8 from the field with 13 points, coming off the bench.
Their inferior inside presence (46 points to 38) and erratic play (24 turnovers) kept the Hotshots from decisively breaking the game open as Barako Bull picked up 8 more points from errors while limiting its miscues to 12. But they atoned by defensively holding the Energy to 42 percent shooting against their close to 50 percent clip.
A closing-minute lapse by Purefoods allowed Barako Bull import Solomon Alabi to go to the foul line and push the Energy within 99-94. But time ultimately ran out before Bowles sank a free throw and Marc Pingris came up with a one-handed stuff.
Barako Bull absorbed its fourth consecutive loss and fell to 4-6 at 9th place, joining Alaska, San Miguel Beer and Blackwater as prime candidates for deletion.
While Bowles and Devance took centerstage, Pennisi somehow found a way to steal some of the spotlight.
With Barako Bull within 85-76 from a double digit deficit and getting bolder, the 6-foot-9 Pennisi, who played just 12 minutes but practically shut down the 7-foot Alabi in the fourth quarter, got the ball at his favorite spot on top of the key with 6:56 left.
He stroke in a long, looping 3 which Alabi fiercely contested but wound up knocking down Pennisi, who fell back first and instinctively assumed a classic Cleopatra-like pose with his head resting on his hand, his elbow on the floor and his legs crossed.
Basking at a few precious moments of TV airtime, Pennisi eventually got up and hit the bonus free throw for a rare 4-point play.
“We got sloppy in the end and we couldn’t defend,” said Purefoods coach Tim Cone. “But our team showed real grit the whole night, and it was a good game for us coming from that out-of-town triple overtime.”
Cone said Friday’s game against Meralco will be critical.
“To us the playoffs started early,” Cone said. “We have one more against Meralco trying to get to that top two. We’re not sure if we end up in a three-way tie with Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine; we could lose through quotient. But we should be in the top six at this point. Getting top two is a bonus.”
Meanwhile, embattled Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer, barely hanging on a thread with the eliminations winding down, shoots for its third straight victory but only its fourth overall against Talk ‘N Text at 7 tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tropang Texters can tie defending champion Purefoods at second spot with their 7th win in 10 games, while the Beermen, mired at 11th spot with 3-6 record, can only hope and pray, assuming they take care of their two remaining games.
In the 4:15 p.m. curtainraiser, NLEX guns for its fifth consecutive win when it takes on Kia Motors, with the Road Warriors still in the hunt for a twice-to-beat slot in the quarterfinal playoffs.
Kia, on the other hand, is tied with three other teams at 6th to 9th places on 4-5 slates, with a victory here boosting its playoff bid.
The 9th to 12th-placed teams after the 11-game elims get the door, leaving the eight remaining teams to do battle in the playoffs. The top two ballclubs wield twice-to-beat advantages over the 7th and 8th-ranked teams, respectively, while the four others play a best-of-3 mini-series.
PUREFOODS 103 – Bowles 34, Devance 15, Maliksi 13, Pingris 8, Melton 8, Pennisi 7, Barroca 6, Yap 6, Simon 3, Malari 2, Taha 1.
BARAKO 96 – Alabi 29, Lanete 21, Intal 15, Mercado 14, Garcia 5, Pascual 4, Hubalde 4, Marcelo 4, Lastimosa 0, Matias 0, Salva 0.
Quarters: 19-24, 47-47, 81-72, 103-96.