(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – Meralco vs Rain or Shine
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Alaska
The chance of defending champion San Miguel Beer to make the semifinals automatically comes down to its final game in the elimination but against a team that has ‘payback’ on its mind following two painful defeats in the finals stage last season.
Expect war when defending champion and league leader San Miguel takes on Alaska, while Rain or Shine tackles Meralco in a pair of crucial games as the race for playoff berths heats up in the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With that, SMB coach Leo Austria has one simple instruction to his players.
“We’ve got give our best,” said Austria a day before what he considers a very important match.
“We don’t want to go the hard way, we don’t want any complication and we don’t want to rely as far as our bid to make the semis on other teams, so have to play hard in this game.”
“We understand the consequence, the players know that. It’s going to be a tough road to take if we don’t make it to the semifinal outright… imagine playing on the 23rd and also on Christmas Day. So hopefully, we go all out against Alaska to get the outright semis,” added Austria.
At the moment, the Beermen have the league-best record of 9-2, followed by the Elasto Painters and Aces with identical 7-2 cards and all three teams are in a tight battle for the two automatic semifinal spots.
The game between SMB and Alaska is set at 7 p.m., right after the 4 p.m. encounter of Rain or Shine and Meralco.
San Miguel is on a seven-game win streak following its 97-84 win last Saturday against Talk ’N Text, a game where Arwind Santos exploded for a personal season high 30 points with 12 rebounds.
Reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo contributed 22 points, 15 rebounds and five shot blocks, while veteran point guard Alex Cabagnot added 21 points and eight board and six assists.
“I think they reactivated (6-8 center) Sam Eman to prepare for June Mar, that the key for them, to stop June Mar. So for us, other players have to step up, like Arwind, Alex, Marcio (Lassiter)… it has to be team effort,” added Austria.
Alaska is nursing a painful 105-111 setback to Rain or Shine last Friday that snapped a four-game win streak.
A win by Alaska, however, will give the Aces a chance for outright semifinals since they still have a game left against Barako Bull on Saturday. If the Aces win their last two games, they will tie SMB at 9-2.
Rain or Shine is also on track of finishing with a 9-2 slate as it aims for wins versus Meralco and NLEX on Saturday.
A three-way tie will give the Painters the No. 1 spot and first outright semifinal berth because of superior quotient, while the Beermen and the Aces will dispute the No. 2 spot and second automatic semis slot.
The third to sixth finishers will advance in the crossover quarterfinal armed with twice-to-beat advantage against the seventh to 10th finishers. The last two teams will be ousted automatically, and Meralco was the first team to bow out in playoff contention.