E-Painters, Energy Cola in crucial clash

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ALASKA forward Gabby Espinas (left) engages Barangay Ginebra import Vernon Macklin in a verbal tussle during their game Wednesday night. Espinas and the Aces had the last word, though, beating the Kings, 102-93, to clinch the No. 1 spot. NUKI SABIO/PBA IMAGE

Derailed the last time out, Rain or Shine and Barako Bull tangle tonight in a duel with huge playoff implications in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Gametime is 7:30 p.m. with the Elasto Painters looking to close in on the No. 2 seeding in the quarterfinals with a win over the Energy Cola, who are also seeking to stay alive for a spot in the playoffs.

With Petron Blaze hot on their heels for the coveted No. 2 spot that comes with a twice-to-beat incentive, the Elasto Painters, with an 8-4 record, are under pressure to prevail even as the Energy Cola try to sneak past idle Air 21 for the last playoff berth.

Alaska tries to put an exclamation point to a sensational elimination-round campaign against already-eliminated Globalport in the 5:15 p.m. opener.

The Aces wrapped up top spot in the quarterfinals after a 102-93 trouncing of Barangay Ginebra that also snapped the Gin Kings’ six-game winning run Wednesday night.

The Energy Cola have a tough task in dealing with Rain or Shine’s 7-foot-3 import Bruno Sundov as well as Paul Lee and Jeff Chan, who are looking to bounce back from poor shooting performances in the 89-84 overtime loss to Alaska last Friday.

This puts pressure on Barako Bull import DJ Mbenga, the former Los Angeles Lakers center, who had a quiet debut of 14 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Petron last Sunday.

An NBA champion with the Lakers, Mbenga, a 6-foot-10 Congolese-Belgian, hasn’t played a competitive game in three months until the game against the Boosters.

A win will shove Barako into a tie at eighth spot with Air21 with a game remaining in both of their schedules. Under the format, the top two teams will get a twice-to-beat edge against the seventh and eighth-ranked teams in the playoffs. The third and sixth-ranked squads play in a best-of-three series, just like the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds.

Alaska is heavily favored over a Globalport squad with only two wins in 12 games so far.

Credited for the Aces’ explosive stint is the all-around play of crack import Robert Dozier.

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