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Crucial PBA matches

Games Tomorrow
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5:15 p.m. – Meralco vs Rain or Shine
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Alaska

The final four days – or last 16 matches – in the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup elimination round will affect the playoffs scenario as ramification of matches will determine everything, from the two automatic semifinalists, to team placing in the quarterfinals, and the 10th and last qualifier.

Eight of the 12 squads are already qualified in the playoffs, with leader and defending champion San Miguel Beer, Rain or Shine and Alaska in a tight race for two outright spots in the Final Four.

At the moment, the Beermen carry a 9-1 card followed by the Elasto Painters and the Aces with similar 7-2 records. Rain or Shine snapped the four-game win streak of Alaska with a 111-105 victory last Friday.

SMB and Alaska will clash tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, which will likely determine whether or not they will move to the semis without going through the rigors of playing in the quarters.

A victory by the Beermen will cement their place as the No. 1 team in the playoffs and berth in the semifinals.

San Miguel has Alaska’s numbers since the Leo Austria-mentored squad twice defeated the team of coach Alex Compton in the conference finals, winning a Game 7 thriller in this same All-Filipino tournament and sweeping a seven-game series in the Governors’ Cup.

Nevertheless, the mild-mannered Austria expects another tough match up against Alaska.

“It’s going to be an exciting game, knowing that both teams are battling for something – something that may bring us to the semifinals. We expect a tough game,” said Austria, whose team edged Talk ’N Text, 97-84, that extended their win streak to seven last Saturday.

A setback by San Miguel will complicate things for the team since there is a possibility of a three-way tie at 9-2 with Rain or Shine and Alaska. If that happens, RoS gets the No. 1 spot due to a superior quotient as it also downed SMB (99-84) last month.

That scenario will force the Beermen and the Aces disputing the No. 2 spot in the playoffs and the second outright semifinal berth on Dec. 23 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

Rain or Shine has two more games, Meralco – the first team to head the exit door with its 1-9 slate – tomorrow and skidding but still dangerous NLEX Road Warriors on Saturday at the Big Dome.

“We need to win these last two games if we want to enter the semis outright,” said RoS mentor Yeng Guiao. “It is still in our hands, and we’ll take full advantage as we try to finish strong.”

A possible two-way tie between the Painters and the Aces will likewise lead to a playoff encounter on the 23rd to determine the second semifinal berth.

Globalport outlasted Mahindra with a 118-116 overtime win last Saturday that improved the record of Batang Pier to 7-3, which gave them twice-to-beat bonus in the quarterfinal round.

The third to sixth teams will all carry twice-to-beat in the crossover opposite the seventh to 10th qualifiers.

Still in the hunt for a twice-to-beat are Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (6-4), TNT (5-4) and Barako Bull (5-5).

In case of ties, quotient system will be applied to decide which teams will have twice-to-beat incentives.

The battle for the 10th and last playoff spot is equally exciting with Star (3-7), Blackwater (2-7) and Mahindra (2-8) in neck-to-neck finish. In case of a three-way tie, the team with a superior quotient will take the 9th spot while the last two will meet in a playoff for the last quarterfinal slot.

The Elite have two more games, against the Hotshots on Friday at the Araneta Coliseum and versus the Enforcers on Sunday at the MOA Arena. A two-way tie will also result to a playoff for the 10th spot.

In case there are no ties and no playoff games, the quarterfinal round will formally start on Christmas Day at the MOA Arena.

The quarters has two stages, first with the twice-to-beat teams facing their respective foes, and the second will be a ‘knockout’ match among the quarterfinal survivors to determine the two semifinalists. It will be a best-of-seven series both in semifinals and Finals.