Are they for real?

February 09, 2019
Matthew Wright
Matthew Wright of Phoenix takes a difficult shot against Asi Taulava and Kenneth Ighalo of NLEX in the second quarter of their game on Friday night. The Fuel Masters won to post their fifth straight victory. (PBA Images)

HAS Phoenix Pulse come of age?

Having survived diverse challenges early in the elimination, the Fuel Masters have apparently become real contenders in the PBA Philippine Cup.

The discussion on their seeming invincibility became hotter after they turned back the gritty NLEX in a game of changing fortunes last Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

In what seemed to be the proof of their will to win, the Fuel Masters kept their composure despite losing huge lead and trailed the Road Warriors in the middle of the game.

The truth was, the Fuel Masters were never in control even as the game reached its last five minutes, but thanks to Matthew Wright, they were able to pull through and escape with an 83-82 win over the Road Warriors.

They added the Road Warriors to the growing list of their victims, but the situation only made coach Louie Alas apprehensive, knowing full well that by going 5-0, everybody is now preparing well to beat his Fuel Masters.

In the course of their streak, the Fuel Masters have defeated the three MVP franchises — Meralco (93-92, Jan. 16), Talk ‘N Text (93-84, Jan. 19), and last Friday NLEX (83-82). Their other wins came at the expense of Columbian Dyip whom they demolished, 108-98, last Jan. 23, and Blackwater whom they routed, 114-95, on Feb. 1.

The Fuel Masters return to action today as they take on Rain or Shine in what could be the toughest test on whether they are for real in the kickoff conference.

“Unbelievable,” uttered Alas during post-game interview that followed the Fuel Masters’ hairline victory over the Road Warriors.

“I’m not saying na talagang kaya namin mga nauna, pero eto na, mga elite teams na makakalaban namin starting with Rain or Shine Sunday. We will see,” added Alas.

In those five straight wins by Phoenix, Justin Chua, Matthew Wright and Calvin Abueva were the consistent scorers, but Wright made the distinction of being the top scorer in three of those wins.

The Fuel Masters and the Elasto Painters collide in the 4:30 p.m. opening tussle of an explosive Sunday thriller at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Painters themselves are on a roll with three straight victories capped by a 107-100 thumping of NorthPort also last Friday. At 5-1, they are behind Phoenix.

Magnolia and San Miguel Beer clash in the main offering at 6:45 p.m., with the former seeking to bounce back from an 80-75 loss at the hands of TNT last Feb. 3.

The Beermen on the other hand are looking for their second straight win following their 93-79 win over Blackwater last Feb. 6.