It’s bust for SMB sans Wells
It’s too early for panic time but unless everything goes well for their injured ace import Dez Wells, the second PBA grand slam bid by the San Miguel Beermen since falling short in 2017 appears doomed again.
The Beermen tried a temporary replacement in John Holland but the former Cleveland Cavalier did everything but score and SMB fell out of the top four bracket with a 91-85 loss to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters at Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu last Saturday.
SMB earlier played all-Filipino in salvaging a 99-96 overtime decision over the Blackwater Elite, who, at 2-8, became the first of four teams that will miss the quarterfinals after trading three crack players in blatant mockery of a league drive to establish parity among teams.
Now tied for fifth at 6-4 with defending champion Magnolia, the Beermen need to get past the TNT KaTropa in their last elimination game on Nov. 20 and keep their slim chance of still making it as the fourth and last quarterfinalist with a twice-to-beat bonus.
And they’re hoping Wells would be in top shape by then after a 23-day rest to heal a left foot sprain he suffered midway in the second quarter last Oct. 27 against the Meralco Bolts. Wells returned to finish with 18 points at halftime but was rested in the final half and the Bolts rolled to a 125-99 romp.
Before his injury, Wells had set a tournament scoring record of 56 in a losing game against NorthPort. He also shot 52 in another SMB losing effort against Ginebra. All told he averaged 37.1 points on top of seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Moving up to No. 4 are the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, who improved to 6-3 with a 96-93 decision over the KaTropa last Friday. TNT dropped into a tie with Meralco for second at 7-2 the NLEX Road Warriors now on top at 7-1.
With the first six quarterfinal slots secured, five teams now battle for the two remaining qualifying berths. Columbian Dyip is running seventh at 4-6 followed by NorthPort at 3-5, Alaska at 3-6, Rain or Shine at 3-7 and Phoenix at 2-7.
The top four quarterfinalists will need just one win against their respective lower-ranked foes to advance to the semifinals. All ties will be settled by the PBA quotient system with only the deadlock for No. 8 going into a playoff.