Painters cool Hotshots
CALASIAO, Pangasinan—Of the four teams still in the hunt for a top two berth in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals, Rain or Shine is considered the longest shot.
But after getting 23 points from Raymund Almazan and twin digits from four others in a 101-95 decision of Magnolia in a Petron Saturday Special game at Calasiao Sports Complex here Saturday, the Elasto Painters have put themselves in position to go through the eye of the needle.
For them, it’s one powerhouse down and three more title favorites to go.
Rumored to be demanding a trade for reportedly being at odds with head coach Caloy Garcia, Almazan scored the Painters’ first seven points and finished with a 9-for-11 clip and was obviously the biggest factor in the authoritative win.
The Painters won a third straight game and rose to 5-3 and kept their outside chance alive, but they will be slugging it out with Alaska, three-time defending champion San Miguel Beer and crowd-darling Barangay Ginebra to close out their elimination round assignment.
And there’s no other squad in the field which will have a tougher final three games.
“The last four games that we will be playing are the top teams and I just asked my players to go out there and compete,” coach Caloy Garcia said. “We’re not thinking of the top two at the moment; we want to take it one game at a time.”
Garcia is wary of the two-week rest his Painters will be having before they play the Aces.
“We would have wanted to play again coming from a game like this,” he said. “We will just have to find ways to stay sharp during that break.”
Magnolia dropped out of a three-way tie for the lead and fell to third at 6-3 but could still get to eight wins with games against GlobalPort and Meralco still scheduled.
But if the Hotshots fall into a tie for second with the Elasto Painters, they will lose in the quotient system because of the winner-over-the-other rule.
Paul Lee missed a third straight game for the Hotshots because of a high ankle sprain as coach Chito Victolero said he won’t take chances until the former Rookie of the Year is 100 percent healthy as he anticipates a tough grind in the playoffs.
James Yap, Magnolia’s former franchise player, scored 13 points highlighted by a critical three-point play off Justin Melton in the dying minutes that staved off the last of the Hotshots’ rallies.
Aldrech Ramos fired 26 points, including three triples in the fourth that kept Magnolia in the game.
Meanwhile, Alaska takes its turn at getting out of a tie for the lead when the red-hot Aces battle resurgent NLEX at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tied with the Beermen, the Aces will be shooting to win a seventh straight game and keep their momentum going in time for a key collision with San Miguel later in the week in a match that could ultimately determine who gets quarterfinal bonuses.
Barangay Ginebra and TNT KaTropa lock horns in the 6:45 p.m. contest with both looking for victories that would keep them in the middle of the playoff draw.