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Purefoods eyes solo lead

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Blackwater vs Rain or Shine
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Purefoods Star

Defending champion Purefoods Star guns for solo leadership and a potential twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs when it takes on the Meralco Bolts today in a most critical phase of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Hotshots, on a three-game winning streak, are tied with Talk ‘N Text for leadership on 7-3 win-loss but can wind up its elimination round campaign with a bang by beating the Bolts, who, at 6-3 win-loss, share third place with Rain or Shine.

Gametime is at 7 p.,m. after the 4:15 p.m. curtainraiser between the Elasto Painters, featuring now contrite bangers Beau Belga and Raymond Almazan, and the Blackwater Elite.

A victory by Purefoods could leave TNT and Rain or Shine battling for the second twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals with Meralco sliding down the standings. A Bolts win, however, will reverse the consequences, with the Hotshots probably falling in the best-of-3 mini-series.

Naturalized Gilas Pilipinas player Marcus Douthit is on his last two games with Blackwater (2-7) before he rejoins the national team for two forthcoming international competitions and may wish to wrap things up in his unscheduled PBA stint in a flurry.

At 12th spot, the Elite are virtually out of contention for a place in the playoffs but remains capable of a respectable finish in its second conference if it wins its last two games.

Rain or Shine may be too determined and focused to be thrown off sync from its goal, however, having conquered Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in a tumultous encounter a few days ago at the Cuneta Astrodome.

This despite the heavy fines levied on Belga (P70,000) and Raymond Almazan (P40,000) for taunting the predominantly Barangay Ginebra crowd with suggestive gestures and dirty finger signs.

Belga’s raunchy acts during a free throw situation, specifically, appeared to have riled up spectators, several of whom were responsible for a plastic mineral bottle lobbed into the court at the height of the fiercely-fought game.

The offending fans were escorted out of the venue.

PBA commissioner Chito Salud, upon review of the game, including three instances were the referees missed deliberate contacts initiated by the wide-bodied Belga, including in one dead ball moment where he dropped a knee on a fallen Eman Monfort, Ginebra’s diminutive backup point guard, lowered the boom on the Rain or Shine center.

After numerous incidents where rugged players prone to stepping out of bounds of legal defensive moves and to hurting others had escaped notice during games, the PBA is expected to act with more force and vigilance to curve this growing menace.

No less than Ricardo Brown, the 1985 PBA most valuable player, has scored Belga and even Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.

“Who is this guy? Are you kidding me?” Brown wrote on his Facebook wall, according to an ABS-CBN report.

“Is this what the PBA has come to? Is this what the PBA fans want to see today? I’ve got news for you. This is NOT basketball at a high level and is an embarrassment to Philippine basketball. Disgraceful.”

Brown also wrote: “Who’s the Rain or Shine coach? Do you think for a second I would allow this BS if I were his coach or team manager? Good Lord. Why wasn’t he yanked and sent to the locker room? That’s on the coach, in my book.”

In a recent posting, however, Brown was more forgiving, even offering Belga unsolicited advise.

“Flush that ‘bad boy villain’ BS down the toilet because YOU have talent to play the game the right way,” wrote Brown. “I loved playing a physical game, banging bodies… loved it! But there is a big difference from being a physical player and a dirty player, and you know that. The real and genuine Filipino basketball fans want to be entertained with skillful, high-level, competitive basketball. Nothing more is needed.”