Chase for playoff slots gets hotter

March 07, 2019

Defending champion San Miguel Beer battles NLEX while NorthPort takes on Meralco as the hot chase for playoff berths continues today in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Of the four protagonists today, it is only the Beermen who have good amount of momentum going into their 7 p.m. encounter with a dangerous NLEX at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen won their last two outings against Blackwater, 93-79 (Feb. 6) and against Magnolia Hotshots, 113-92 (Feb. 10), making them  slightly favored over the Road Warriors who lost to Phoenix Pulse last Feb. 8, 83-82.

Everybody is fully aware of the toughness of playing in the playoff round where anything can happen – reason why teams in the upper half of the standings are dying to finish top two.

Under the tournament format, the top two teams after the 11-game elimination round have the luxury of having to win only once in the quarterfinal round to advance right away to the semifinals.

With still 10 playing dates left in the elimination, Phoenix Pulse is likely to take one of the top two slots for keeping itself well-entrenched at the top on an 8-1 record capped by an ego-boosting 89-87 win over Magnolia last Wednesday.

As for the Beermen, they still have good chances of landing top two, but that may not depend on them alone, but also on how the other teams above them will fare in their respective remaining games.

But there is one task that the Beermen ought to accomplish to possibly reach their goal of landing top two, and that is a sweep of their last four outings.

Now is the time for the Beermen to start their tough drive, beginning with their faceoff with the Road Warriors, who at 2-4, can only be expected to give their best every game to survive and make the playoff.

In their last game against the Hotshots, the Beermen played with a lot of urgency, keeping their game alive on the way to a 113-92 win.

"The chemistry is there. That's our problem before because we couldn't practice with all the players hit by injuries. Slowly, we gained a good rhythm," said SMB coach Leo Austria after the Beermen’s fourth win in seven outings.

"The guys were focused maybe because they knew the importance of the game. Mahirap maghabol in the fight for the Top Two if we fell to 3-4," added Austria.

Arwind Santos, June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo all exploded for at least 22 points each as the Beermen scored a follow-up to their 93-79 dumping of the Elite.