SMB slump ends; ROS gains playoffs
With a closing burst, San Miguel Beer finally broke into the win column even as Barangay Ginebra continued to struggle despite a triple double from returning import Justin Brownlee in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The defending champion Beermen trailed, 86-88, when Arwind Santos sparked a 20-6 blast that repulsed the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 106-94, and raised hopes of a big SMB fightback after three unexpected losses kicked off its campaign for a second straight title this season.
Renaldo Balkman, back with SMB after an ugly incident that cost him a PBA ban for life that was lifted only recently, and top draft pick Christian Stanhardinger combined for 53 points. The core of the team that captured a record fourth straight Philippine Cup crown took care of the rest of the offensive load although four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo was hardly a factor anew with nine points.
Next in line for SMB is Barangay Ginebra, which earlier dropped a double overtime loss to Phoenix then absorbed a thorough 93-82 beating from Meralco despite 20 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists from Brownlee in an emergency substitute role for the ineffective Charles Garcia last Friday.
The SMB-Ginebra duel was going on as of this writing Sunday night with Brownlee, who led the Gin Kings to back-to-back Governors’ Cup titles the last two years, facing Balkman in an eagerly awaited confrontation between imports who played as teammates when San Miguel Alab Pilipinas captured the Asean basketball championship recently.
Despite their poor start, experts still expect the Beermen (1-3) and the Kings (1-4) to secure slots among the top eight teams that will advance to the quarterfinals after the single round of eliminations.
Leading the chase for the top two qualifying spots that will enjoy a twice-to-beat bonus in the next round are Rain or Shine, which has a 6-1 record, and Alaska.
Curiously, both teams, which are already assured of advancing, own early wins over SMB.
The Elasto Painters and Aces kept their tie for first Saturday by rallying from 15 points to slip past the Magnolia Hotshots and the GlobalPort Batang Pier, respectively. Rain or Shine downed Magnolia in overtime, 99-96, while Alaska, with Vic Manuel again leading the charge, turned back GlobalPort, 109-103.
TNT KaTropa is running third at 5-1 followed by Meralco (4-2), Magnolia (3-2), Phoenix and GlobalPort (3-3), Columbian Dyip (3-4) and NLEX (2-4). Blackwater is out of it at 0-7.
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