(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. — Rain or Shine vs. Columbian
7 p.m. — Magnolia vs. Phoenix
THE supposed superiority of Phoenix on defense has lately been indicated to be the reason why the Fuel Masters are looking down on everybody in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Interestingly, the Fuel Masters’ only defeat which happened last Feb. 10 was dealt by a defense-minded Rain or Shine which narrowly beat them, 98-94.
That could mean the Fuel Masters have no monopoly at all of that basic weapon in basketball called defense.
Nonetheless, the Fuel Masters have rebounded well from that tough loss to the Elasto Painters, turning back NorthPort, 98-96, last Feb. 27, before routing another defense-oriented Alaska side, 94-80, last March 1.
That twin victories by the Fuel Masters coupled with the Elasto Painters’ loss to Talk ‘N Text last Sunday catapulted Phoenix back to the top at 7-1.
Now, Phoenix has to deal with three tough teams which stand in the way in their bid for top two finish and a playoff incentive.
These are Magnolia, Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel which could be the ultimate test whether Phoenix is for real and ready for playoff battles.
The Fuel Masters start their drive as they play the resurgent Hotshots, the Governors’ Cup titlists, in the 7 p.m. main offering of an interesting doubleheader at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Big test talaga ang last three games,” said Phoenix coach Louie Alas, saying the team’s character would be tested.
It will be a real test of Phoenix’s character, added Alas.
After today, Phoenix will next tackle the Gin Kings on March 10, also at the Big Dome, before they wrap up their elimination round campaign with a meeting with defending champion Beermen in an out-of-town game at Panabo City in Davao del Norte on Saturday.
If they do well in these three tough outings, then the Fuel Masters have strong chances of taking one of top two slots which offer twice-to-beat advantages in the quarterfinal round.
Magnolia alone could present an acid test for the Fuel Masters who are considered now to be in ‘playoff mode’ and needing every win they could to clinch a playoff berth.
The Fuel Masters lost their first three outings in a sour start, but were able to make the win column at the expense of Meralco whom they subdued, 92-86, in a road game at Xavier U Gym in Cagayan de Oro City last Saturday.