Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Kia
5:15 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Alaska
The fate of defending champion and solo leader Purefoods Star and the four other teams taking up the next four spots in the standings could get stripped of its veil today when the elimination round of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup winds down to its last three playdates at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A vigilant Purefoods coach Tim Cone could be at home or at the Big Dome when second-running Rain or Shine and Talk ‘N Text separately go for the jugular in their bids for twice-to-beat incentives in the quarterfinals against opponents fighting for survival to qualify to the best-of-3 phase of the playoffs.
“We finished the way we want to finish and we’re not gonna sweat over it,” said Cone of their still precarious post. “If we end up third, I’ll be happy with that. It’s out of our control.”
Riding a two-game winning streak, the ROS Elasto Painters (7-3 win loss) face 7-foot-3 PJ Ramos and the Kia Carnival (4-6) at 3 p.m. while the Tropang Texters (7-3), looking to close out the elims with a 3-0 run, meet the Alaska Aces (4-5) at 5:15 p.m.
At 8-3, following their crucial 96-85 victory Friday over Josh Davis and the seemingly fading Meralco Bolts (6-4 with back-to-back losses), the Purefoods Star Hotshots are on top of the heap after wrapping up their 11-game first round schedule.
No way are they sitting pretty, however, as Cone knows.
Victories by both Rain or Shine and Talk ‘N Text could have dire consequences for Purefoods since the resulting three-way tie for leadership would favor the Elasto Painters and the Tropang Texters with higher quotients.
Purefoods edged Talk ‘N Text in an epic triple overtime, 118-117, in Davao City on March 14, but suffered a 78-71 defeat to Rain or Shine earlier in Dipolog City on Valentine’s Day. TNT, meantime, nipped ROS, 89-86, last Jan. 28.
In this scenario, Rain or Shine and Talk ‘N Text will snare the first two slots in the playoffs with the luxury of having two games to put away the 7th- and 8th-ranked teams and advance to the best-of-5 semifinals.
A loss by either ROS or TNT will give Purefoods a big exhale with one of two twice-to-beat advantages.
A setback by both, on the other hand, will be loudly applauded by Meralco and the NLEX Road Warriors, tied at 4th spot with a shot at forcing an even more complicated 4-way tie for the second twice-to-beat incentive.
Under no circumstances is the significance of today’s games lost on Kia and Alaska as well.
The Aces are tied with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Globalport at sixth place, with all three teams determined to hang on to their current positions and keep the four beneath them – Kia, Barako Bull, hard-lucked Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer and expansion ballclub Barako Bull – locked out of the playoffs.
A win by Kia, at 9th place with Barako Bull on 4-6 cards, over Rain or Shine this afternoon, and losses by any of Ginebra, Alaska or Globalport in the last two playdates could muddle up even more an already chaotic situation since that could open up a small window for Kia and Barako Bull to sneak in.
Meanwhile, the Petron Blaze Saturday Special between Barangay Ginebra and Globalport at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City was still ongoing at presstime.