3 p.m. – Star vs Mahindra
5:15 p.m. – TNT vs Rain or Shine
Note to the Beermen and Aces: Leave the door open, fellas, the Elasto Painters are about to barge in.
Rain or Shine hopes to make it Three’s Company on top when it takes on the TNT Tropang Texters today even as two teams tethering on the precipice seek to step back at the other’s expense when the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup moves to a critical phase at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters can tie co-leaders defending champion San Miguel Beer and Alaska on 7-1 win-loss cards if they prevail at 5:15 p.m., while the Star Hotshots and Mahindra Enforcers, deadlocked at ninth spot with 2-6 slates, push each other off the cliff at 3 p.m.
At stake for Rain or Shine is its three-game winning streak and a shot at torpedoing SMB and Alaska’s bid to make it outright to the semifinals with the goal of reprising their championship appearance in this conference last season.
RoS is coming off a 94-86 victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel last Nov 29, while TNT absorbed a 105-98 setback to Barako Bull three days ago that sent the Tropang Texters slipping to solo fifth place with a 4-3 record.
Unlike the E-Painters, the Tropang Texters may have given up on bypassing the playoffs and vaulting right into the best-of-7 semis, giving coach Jong Uichico’s team a more compelling reason to keep its current position and not fall lower than sixth place.
The third- to sixth-ranked teams after the elimination get twice-to-beat incentives against the seventh- to 10th-placed ballclubs when they clash in the first phase of the quarterfinals. The winners then meet in two crossover knockout games.
Both Star and Mahindra, on the other hand, have nothing but survival in their minds when they tangle, with the loser facing a grim fate in the clutches of the 11th-running Blackwater Elite (1-6) and 12th-placed Meralco Bolts (1-8).
Star, under new coach Jason Webb, continues to grapple at incorporating the run-and-gun philosophy into their long structured system under Tim Cone and have lost their last four games, while the Enforcers are looking to add to the Hotshots’ anguish and bounce back from a 102-86 rout at the hands of San Miguel.
Meantime, the Petron Saturday Special offering between Barangay Ginebra (4-4) and Blackwater (1-6) was ongoing at press time.