E-Painters, Aces, Bolts battle for top two
With three overtime victories, Rain or Shine pulled off yet another great escape on Saturday to break its tie with Alaska in their hectic chase for coveted top two spots that will be rewarded with twice-to-beat incentives in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup.
The Elasto Painters recovered from a double-barreled assault from former ROS star Jeff Chan and import Eugene Phelps in the first half and needed clutch hits from James Yap, Raymond Almazan and Maverick Ahanmisi in the closing minutes of the final period to turn back the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 108-106, and regain first place with eight wins against a lone defeat.
Phoenix led by 19 points late in the first quarter and stayed on top at halftime by 12 with Chan, who was traded to Phoenix last year, and Phelps combining for the 45 points ROS managed in the first half. But Chan could score only three points in the second half while Phelps just had four in a turnaround that eventually doomed Phoenix to its sixth loss in nine games.
Rain or Shine opened its campaign with an overtime win over Alaska. The Painters are now on a five-game winning streak that includes extra period conquests of San Miguel Beer and Magnolia.
Alaska had earlier tied Rain or Shine at 7-1 with back-to-back victories over Magnolia and NLEX as Vic Manuel and import Antonio Campbell took up the cudgels for the Aces with star forward Calvin Abueva under indefinite suspension for going AWOL (absent without leave), and Jeron Teng recuperating from stab wounds sustained in a brawl with drunks recently.
Manuel had a career high 35 points and Campbell had 27 as the Aces downed the Hotshots, 103-99, last Sunday. Against NLEX, Campbell scattered 28 and Manuel added 22 in a 120-111 win on Friday.
But Meralco beat Alaska on Sunday night, 89-74, as the Bolts tied the Aces at 7-2.
TNT KaTropa (6-3) still has a shot at top two slots that will face the No. 7 and No. 8 qualifier in the quarterfinals. But the Bolts are in for a tough grind against the Aces, KaTropa and the Painters in their last three games.
Aside from Meralco, TNT also has a tough final game against Rain or Shine.
Meanwhile, defending champion San Miguel Beer again moved into contention for one of the four places that will secure best-of-three slots in the quarterfinals with a 99-94 decision of TNT also Saturday.
Bucking the absence of injured top draft pick Christian Standhardinger and the ejection of Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter, the Beermen improved to 4-4, tied with the Hotshots and the GlobalPort Batang Pier, who earlier upset SMB, 98-94.
Thrown out with Santos was Anthony Semerad after exchanging elbows during a rebound scuffle in the fourth quarter. Lassiter was thumbed out on two technical fouls with Terrence Romeo in the second quarter.
SMB will take on tailender Blackwater (1-9), NLEX (2-7) and Magnolia in its last three games. Aside from the Beermen and the Road Warriors, the Hotshots will have to hurdle the Barangy Ginebra Gin Kings, who are still nursing faint hopes of advancing with their 2-5 record so far.
GlobalPort also has to deal with Ginebra after tackling Columbian Dyip (4-5) and Phoenix (3-6).
The best-of-three quarterfinal will pit No. 3 against No. 6 and No. 4 against No. 5. The top qualifier will face the last quarterfinalist.