Magnolia survived the loss of an 18-point lead in the third period by playing steadier at the crunch, nipping Blackwater, 78-72, to wrest the lead heading into the final four weeks of the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations at Mall of Asia Arena on Friday night.
The Hotshots closed out with six unanswered points inside the final minute to win for the fifth straight game and rise to 6-1 while dealing the Elite a fourth consecutive defeat in a 2-5 record.
Paul Lee missed the game because of a sprained ankle and there was no real go-to-guy for Magnolia in this game as the Hotshots actually couldn’t sustain a hot start that had them taking a 23-13 lead after the first frame.
Blackwater steadily clawed back and had a solid chance to turn things around only to fall because of some bad decisions in the endgame.
“It was a very tough game, we had some lapses in the end,” coach Chito Victolero said. “Because of our experience and chemistry, we barely scraped through.”
Chris Tiu scored 18 points and Ed Daquioag added 16 to lead Rain or Shine past Meralco, 90-84, in the nightcap.
The Elasto Painters improved to 4-3 and dealt the Bolts their fifth defeat in seven games.
After just a day’s rest, the Hotshots will return to clash with the three-time defending champion San Miguel Beermen.
“That will be tough,” Victolero said of the game. “We will have no excuses and we will try to find ways to beat San Miguel. We need to regroup. [Barangay] Ginebra was able to do it (beat the Beermen in the second of back-to-back games) and that’s our motivation.”
Mac Belo paced the Elite with 25 points, tying his career-high, but had a crucial backing violation that doomed Blackwater. He also opted to pass off on a 2-on-1 break that led to a key miss by John Pinto.
Ian Sangalang, meanwhile, finished with just eight points but had two key plays on opposite ends of the floor when it mattered the most. Sangalang harassed Belo into that backing error and then broke the last tie at 72 with a running jumper off a pass from Marc Pingris.
Meanwhile, the Gin Kings battle NLEX at Cuneta Astrodome on Saturday, seeking a follow-up to that upset of the Beermen and climb to the upper half of the elimination round bracket.
Barangay Ginebra had been tagged one of the favorites in the preseason but wobbled a bit and tripped into a three-game slump before beating the Beermen.
NLEX, another preseason favorite, has also been caught in a slump after winning its first two games of the season.
San Beda, Perpetual score key wins