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(Mall of Asia Arena)
4:15 p.m. – NLEX vs Globalport
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Rain or Shine
No. 1 Beermen in another acid test against No. 2 RoS.
The streaking San Miguel Beermen face another acid test today, this time against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a battle of the top two teams in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
San Miguel and Rain or Shine face off at 7 p.m. with the Beermen putting at stake their six-game winning streak and a league-best 7-1 record while the Elasto Painters hope to end that run and keep an inside track at the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Hoping to benefit if Rain or Shine (5-2) fails to topple the defending champion is Globalport, which is facing NLEX in the opener set at 4:15 p.m.
Globalport is tied for third to fifth places at 4-3 with TNT KaTropa and Alaska, and a victory can keep the Batang Pier within striking distance of the top two spot in the playoffs.
However, NLEX may pose a threat to Globalport’s bid, since it pulled off a surprise last Saturday by stunning TNT, 110-98, in Angeles City, Pampanga. The result allowed the Road Warriors to snap a five-game skid and at the moment are tied for 10th at 2-5 with the rejuvenated Mahindra Floodbuster.
Attention, however, will be on the San Miguel-Rain or Shine clash. The Beermen are coming off a scary 72-70 win over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel where they nearly squandered an eight-point lead with two minutes left.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria is expecting another difficult encounter against Rain or Shine. “I have a lot of respect for Rain or Shine. Since the start, alam naman natin na they have a good lineup and its a matter of time that they will become a cohesive unit dahil mahirap bantayan itong team na to because of the talent they have.”
While June Mar Fajardo is expected to give Rain or Shine problems at the shaded lane, “The Masked Man” Alex Cabagnot may pose further problems for the Elasto Painters after his impressive performances against Blackwater and Ginebra earned him the Player of the Week honors.
“I just expect the same Rain or Shine team that has been playing the amount of times the made the semifinals. I think we were they’re gonna come from, but it’s just up to us to execute and be deliberate with our gameplan,” Cabagnot said.
It seems the sudden departure of long-time coach Yeng Guiao for NLEX and the trade of Paul Lee to Star hasn’t affected Rain or Shine after its strong start. However, Guiao’s successor Caloy Garcia has yet to see the full potential of his team.
“We have a tendency that when we have the lead, nagrerelax kami and we stop attacking,” said Garcia. “Hopefully against San Miguel, we can come out stronger and be consistent in every quarter.”
James Yap, who Rain or Shine got in the Lee trade, describe the game as well as their other remaining games as a measuring stick.
“Malalakas yung mga natitira naming games, so dito namin matetest kung saan kami,” Yap said. “Kung titignan yung standings, dikit-dikit kami. Isang talo mo lang nasa baba na agad kami kaya kailangang alagaan namin yun, walang relax.”