5 p.m. – Brgy. Ginebra vs Blackwater
3 p.m. – Star vs Mahindra
5:15 p.m. – TNT vs Rain or Shine
As compelling as the three-team race for two outright berths to the semifinals may be, the truly gripping scene is the ongoing fight for survival among four floundering ball clubs occupying ninth to 12th spots in the standings.
Two of these teams get to live another day in the playoffs; the bottom two are sent off.
Gasping for air at 11th place in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup elimination are the Blackwater Elite with a 1-6 win-loss card, just one notch above water over the fast-sinking Meralco Bolts at 12th spot with an unbelievable 1-8 record.
The Star Hotshots (2-6), Mahindra Enforcers (2-6), Elite and Bolts are all hanging by a thread and face must-win situations in their remaining games.
Blackwater is up first as it takes on Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Petron Saturday Special in Angeles City, Pampanga at 5 this afternoon.
Having lost their last four games, the Elite need to beat Barangay Ginebra to get back on the winning track and gather momentum for its last three assignments – Barako Bull on Dec. 11, Star Hotshots on Dec. 18 and Mahindra on Dec. 20.
The Kings, on the other hand, have dropped their most recent game, 94-86 to Rain or Shine on Nov. 29, and are seeking to break away from a three-way tie at sixth place with NLEX and Barako Bull on 4-4 slates and add fuel to their bid for a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarters.
Ginebra has NLEX on Dec. 13 and the TNT Tropang Texters on Dec. 20 for its last two elimination games.
The third- to sixth-ranked teams after the elims get two chances in the match-up phase against the seventh to 10th-placed clubs to advance to the knockout leg of the playoffs.
As things stand, one of the one-setback teams – co-leaders San Miguel Beer (7-1) and Alaska (7-1) – and third-running ROS (6-1), if they maintain their course, will ultimately fall and drop as the top team in the playoffs, with a twice-to-beat advantage along with the next three clubs in the ladder.
Presently, Globalport (5-3) is at fourth place, while the ropang Texters (4-3) are at fifth, leaving only one slot, as of now, available for a fourth and last twice-to-beat team.