It’s two down and two to go for powerhouse San Miguel Beer as it tries to steady its wobbling PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign.
The Beermen nailed the second of four straight wins they need to make the playoffs scot-free, drubbing Phoenix Pulse, 128-108, at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday night.
Chris McCullough scored 37 points and had 13 rebounds in under 33 minutes for the Beermen, who rose to 4-5—and remained undefeated after pulling the plug on the Charles Rhodes era.
The Fuel Masters, who were already without the banned Calvin Abueva and also lost import Richard Howell in the second half because of a knee injury, crashed for the second straight time in a 4-6 card and would need to win their last outing to gain at least a tie for No. 8 spot.
Phoenix will be battling also-ran NLEX at 4:30 p.m. Friday, while the Beermen, the consensus team-to-beat here, have matches against Rain or Shine and Meralco.
As things stand, San Miguel climbed to No. 7 but would like nothing more than advancing in the middle of the pack to be at a level playing field come the quarterfinals.
“We hope we can perform like this consistently,” said June Mar Fajardo, who finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks.
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine got what it needed on both ends from new import Carl Montgomery and a big offensive night from Beau Belga to score an 86-82 victory over Magnolia that shored up the Elasto Painters’ playoff chances.
Coming in as a replacement for the injured Denzel Bowles, Montgomery scored 20 points, had 12 rebounds and the biggest defensive gem of the night as the Painters rose to 5-5 and tied their victims in the middle of the pack.
It was the second straight close shave that the Painters pulled off after an 86-84 nipping of Alaska where Bowles hurt his knee and had to be replaced.
And coach Caloy Garcia was impressed at what Montgomery dished out.
“He’s not the biggest, not the tallest and not the strongest import, but he was able to give us the energy in the second half,” said Garcia of the 6-foot-8 Montgomery, who smothered a Jio Jalalon layup that preserved a four-point lead going into the stretch.
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