by Jonas Terrado
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero is banking on import Rakeem Christmas to play better after showing signs of progress despite an 85-79 loss to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in Saturday’s best-of-three quarterfinal opener at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Christmas had 18 points and 14 rebounds after an eight-point, 14-rebound showing in his debut last Wednesday against TNT KaTropa but Magnolia fell short when Ginebra went on a big windup to move another win from reaching the semifinals.
“At least kahit papaano nakakaadjust siya ng pakonti-konti (At least he’s slowly adjusting),” Victolero said.
The defeat was the Hotshots’ fifth straight while putting them on the brink of elimination going into Tuesday’s Game 2 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A deciding third game, if necessary, is set Thursday at the same venue.
Magnolia is certainly used to the situation of being in this situation against Ginebra, as witnessed in the Philippine Cup quarterfinals.
The Hotshots overcame a Game 1 loss by winning the next two games by a pair of blowout margins.
Victolero insisted Christmas is something that fits the bill for the Hotshots.
“He helps us a lot on rebounding and his provides us the presence in the paint,” said Victolero.
“Hopefully on Tuesday mas lalo pa siyang makatulong sa amin. Habang tumatagal nakakaadjust na siya sa weather sa team at sa system,” added Victolero.