Beermen try to tighten rein on top 2 as jostling kicks up a notch
With the PBA Philippine Cup elimination round entering its final half, jockeying for playoff position will reach fever pitch in the next couple of weeks as the race for a top two finish—and the lightest assignments to go with them—remains a wide-open one.
“That’s our goal since the start of the season, to make it to the top two,” coach Leo Austria of league-leading and defending champion San Miguel Beer said. “That’s the motivation that the boys have and we know what’s at stake.”
With a 5-1 record, the Beermen are a full game ahead of second-running Rain or Shine and TNT KaTropa and Austria knows that extending a two-game winning streak would help their top two aspirations immensely as they head for a critical stretch in the next two weeks.
The Beermen battle the Blackwater Elite tomorrow before returning to action after two days of rest to clash with crowd-darling Barangay Ginebra. After that, San Miguel takes on the Elasto Painters on Jan. 13.
San Miguel winds up against GlobalPort and then the Texters, with Austria hoping to win a chunk of those games—if not all of them—to seal a place in the top two.
Tournament format calls for the top two placers after the single-round eliminations to clash with Nos. 8 and 7, respectively, in the quarterfinals, needing to win just once to advance to the Final Four.
That would mean a good amount of rest if they bundle out their lower-ranked foes in just one game.
Staying fresh would be critical in the playoffs since the Final Four and the title series are both best-of-sevens, and teams that qualify from Nos. 3 to 6 won’t have that luxury since they will play a race-to-two quarterfinal series.
The bottom four teams will get the boot, and right now, Mahindra and NLEX are on the edge. The Road Warriors are reeling from five straight defeats in a 1-5 card.
TNT, another loaded side like San Miguel, also has five games left and would need to win the first four of those to arrange a virtual winner-take-all match with the Beermen for No. 1 when they collide on Jan. 28.
The Texters take on the Road Warriors on Saturday in Angeles City, before playing back-to-back next week against Star and Mahindra. GlobalPort is up for TNT on Jan. 25.
Rain or Shine, meanwhile, is thriving under a new coach in Caloy Garcia and has a shot at a top two finish with a 4-2 record.
Left for the Elasto Painters are Phoenix Petroleum, the Beermen, Meralco, GlobalPort and Alaska.
The Aces, on the other hand, have a 3-3 record and need nothing less than a sweep of their last five games to have a shot at the top two berth. Alaska, before that clash with the Painters on Feb. 1, will be facing Star on Wednesday, Blackwater next Sunday, Mahindra on Jan. 22 and the Fuel Masters on Jan. 27.