PANABO—Jason Perkins and Matthew Wright hit the shots that mattered in the stretch and led Phoenix Pulse to a pulsating 96-93 victory over San Miguel Beer for top seeding—and the first twice-to-beat advantage—in the first round of the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs.
The gunslinger Wright hit a triple with 1:16 remaining to snap the game’s last tie at 90 before Perkins, the reigning Rookie of the Year, dropped the last three points in the Petron Saturday Special Game that had the Fuel Masters closing out with a 9-2 card.
No other team in the field will be able to match that, and with the Beermen dropping to 6-4 after seeing a four-game winning streak come to a halt, San Miguel bowed out of the race for that quarterfinal bonus.
Idle Rain or Shine, which outsteadied Meralco, 88-85 on Friday night, is at 8-3 and would await the results of the other games to know if it would play in a KO game for the second quarterfinal bonus.
Wright made 3-of-7 triple tries and finished with 25 points, while Perkins completed a double-double with 10 points and the same number of rebounds as the duo put Phoenix in great position toward playing in the Final Four for the first time.
The Fuel Masters will play the No. 8 seed in the quarters, needing just one win to advance to the semifinals.
June Mar Fajardo had 29 points and 12 rebounds in leading the Beermen, who are trying to extend a league record by winning this conference for the fifth straight year.
Three more players finished in twin digits for the Beermen, with Terrence Romeo shooting 15, though he missed the potential game-tying triple at the buzzer.
Meanwhile, Magnolia and Barangay Ginebra clash in what is seen by many as the most awaited game in the elimination round, but both teams definitely see it in another way.
With both still out of the playoff picture, the Hotshots and the Gin Kings square off at 6:45 p.m. on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, looking for victories that would enhance their respective positions while at the same time claiming bragging rights.
The two most popular squads in the league are running in the middle of the pack with only Ginebra still having a chance in the race for a top two berth and a twice-to-beat privileges.
But winning tonight would keep them well within range of playing on a level playing field in the quarterfinals, with the loser’s back to be pushed hard against the wall heading into the final elimination round games.
Magnolia will be coming into the contest taking its first winning streak, and coach Chito Victolero feels that his Hotshots are progressing at just the right time heading in the homestretch.
“We’re getting there,” Victolero had said after a 109-83 dismantling of Columbian Dyip last week. “We need to continue to have that playoff mentality.”
As things stand, Rain or Shine already ended its elimination round schedule with an 8-3 card for at least a tie for the second twice-to-beat berth, and Ginebra needs to win this game to stay within range, with a number of teams also still within range of tying the Elasto Painters.
NLEX and Blackwater square off in the 4:30 p.m. contest, with the Road Warriors seeking a second straight win and the Elite trying to fan their fading hopes of advancing.
The Road Warriors are at 3-5 and need nothing less than a sweep of their last three games to assure conflict-free passage into the next round.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.