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Hotshots battle Elite

Games Today
(Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – TNT vs Globalport
7 p.m. – Star vs Blackwater

The battle for two remaining playoff berths in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup continue today for two of three teams adrift in a roiling sea of three-way ties and knockout games.

One of them, the struggling Star Hotshots, can step out of the muck and claim seventh spot in the eight-team quarterfinals by stepping over the momentum-driven Blackwater Elite at 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With a 3-7 win-loss card, the Hotshots, hanging on at ninth place overall, can seal the deal if they get past the Elite. A loss, however, will sink them deeper where Blackwater (2-7) and the Mahindra Enforcers (2-8) could drag them into the dark depths in the company of the ousted Meralco Bolts (1-10).

Simply said, Star, coming off a 101-83 drubbing from Barako Bull last Dec. 13, cannot afford to blow this one up since a victory by Blackwater followed by the Enforcers beating the Elite on Dec. 20 at the Mall of Asia Arena on the last day of eliminations will forge a 3-way jam and the resulting sudden death.

There the Grand Slam champions two seasons ago could easily be upended by a young but tenacious and well-motivated opponent.

Blackwater is fresh from a 116-92 crushing of Barako Bull on Dec. 11 which came on the heels of a heartbreaking 102-94 double overtime loss to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, a game the Elite allowed to slip through their fingers in regulation.

Despite the split, both games have pumped the Elite full of confidence and the Hotshots will be hard-pressed to survive if they walk into the court looking as scattered and disinterested as they did in their many previous outings.

In the first game, Globalport takes on the TNT Tropang Texters at 4:15 p.m. with nothing much at stake since both are already in the quarters.

The Batang Pier will be figuratively inspired however since they, at 7-3 and fourth place overall, can still wind up tied with Rain or Shine (8-2) and Alaska (8-2) for the second outright semifinal berth if both the Elasto Painters and Aces drop their last assignments tomorrow – RoS to NLEX; Alaska to Barako Bull.

Nevertheless, in such an event, Globalport gets the lowest quotient due to a 19-point setback to Alaska earlier, while the Aces and the E-Painters dispute the second automatic Final Four berth in a do-or-die.