4:15 p.m. – Globalport vs NLEX
7 p.m. – Mahindra vs San Miguel
It’s a small window, a tiny bit of opening, but the Mahindra Enforcers will have to squeeze through.
The Enforcers can secure the separation it needs from three teams at the bottom of the standings when they go for their third win in eight games today in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
One big, 6-foot-10 of a problem though: they will be up against June Mar Fajardo and defending champion San Miguel Beer.
The Beermen are tied with the Alaska Aces and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on top with 6-1 win-loss cards and will gain solo leadership if they succeed in brushing off Mahindra at 7 p.m.
In the curtain-raiser at 4:15 p.m., the Globalport Batang Pier and NLEX Road Warriors, locked at fifth place with 4-3 records, clash with the modest goal of securing twice-to-beat slots in the playoffs.
The top two teams after the elimination get byes to the semifinals, meaning one among SMB, ROS and Alaska, if they maintain the current positions after 11 games, will drop to the two-phase quarterfinals.
The third- to sixth-ranked ballclubs are given twice-to-beat incentives when they take on the seventh- to 10th-placed teams at the start of the playoffs. The winners then meet in the second phase – two killer knockout games – for the right to face the bye teams in the best-of-7 semis.
The 11th- and 12th-placed clubs get an early exit.
Mahindra, with its blue-collar lineup, is amazingly ahead of the star-studded Star Hotshots, Blackwater Elite and Meralco Bolts in the present order and is expected to fight till the end to keep it that way against the conference’s hottest team.
San Miguel is on a four-game winning streak, its last game a 101-90 demolition of hard-luck Star which suffered its fourth straight loss. Stacked with strength underneath in Fajardo and firepower outside in Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot, the Beermen are virtually untouchable unless Mahindra finds a way to negate these factors while maintaining a tight, defense-oriented, high-percentage game all night long.
Their recent 86-83 victory over the Bolts can be a source of inspiration for the Enforcers, especially for point guard LA Revilla who blocked Jimmy Alapag’s desperation 3-point attempt just before the buzzer.
Globalport, meanwhile, is coming off a torrid 120-115 triumph over Blackwater where the Batang Pier set conference and franchise records for points scored. NLEX, on the other hand, will be looking to get up from an 89-81 loss to the Alaska Aces where veteran Road Warriors center Asi Taulava took a bad fall on his back which, he later said, bruised more his ego than it did his body.