by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – San Miguel vs Meralco
7 p.m. – Magnolia vs TNT KaTropa
Meralco desperately needs an upset win over streaking San Miguel Beer to force a playoff for the No. 8 spot in the final elimination round playdate of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts try to end the Beermen’s three-game winning run in the 4:30 p.m. opener in order to arrange a do-or-die meeting with the Alaska Aces for the right to secure the last quarters berth in the midseason conference.
Coach Norman Black’s team carries a 3-7 record, needing to tie Alaska and Phoenix Pulse which both ended the elims with similar 4-7 slates.
Should they come out victorious, the Bolts will face the Aces in the playoff while eliminating the Fuel Masters due to a superior quotient in the three-way tiebreaker.
A loss, obviously, puts an end to Meralco’s streak of seven straight quarterfinal appearances in the second conference.
Black is banking on import Delroy James to play a big role for Meralco against a San Miguel side that overcame a 2-5 start to win three consecutive games.
The play of import Chris McCullough and the recent surge in production of June Mar Fajardo have been instrumental in the Beermen’s turnaround, putting the Bolts in a difficult situation to pull off an upset.
While already assured of a quarters spot, SMB also needs a win to avoid the prospect of being relegated to the No. 7 seed and a twice-to-beat disadvantage.
San Miguel can finish either fifth or sixth with a victory depending on the outcome of the 7 p.m. nightcap between Magnolia and league-leading TNT KaTropa.
Magnolia will clinch the No. 5 seed and a best-of-three series with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel if it ends TNT’s streak of eight consecutive triumphs.
TNT, meanwhile, shoots for the top spot going into the playoffs with a win. Otherwise, the KaTropa fall to No. 2 and hand the No. 1 seeding to NorthPort.
The KaTropa are on top of the standings with a 9-1 record while the Batang Pier finished the elims at 9-2. Both teams are assured of the twice-to-beat advantage.