TNT, SMB seek q’final bonus
In a huge turnaround after posting a league record 7-0 start, the TNT KaTropa now face a must-win game against the San Miguel Beermen this Wednesday to secure the fourth and last quarterfinal slot with the twice-to-beat bonus at the end of the PBA 2019 Governors’ Cup eliminations.
Slapped with a third straight loss by the defending champion Magnolia Hotshots in Davao last Saturday, the KaTropa can no longer afford another setback that would eventually pull them down to fifth place behind the Grand Slam-seeking Beermen.
SMB, which could reactivate its injured ace import Dez Wells against the KaTropa, would only actually tie TNT at 7-4 with a win but the winner-over-the-other rule will serve as the tiebreaker. A loss drops the Beermen into a tie at 6-5 with the Hotshots, but SMB will get the higher ranking for having beaten Magnolia earlier.
Ginebra, running third behind coleaders NLEX and Meralco, can also end up at 7-4 by losing to NorthPort in a game going on at presstime yesterday, but the Kings enjoy a big edge under the PBA quotient system to decide other ties due to earlier victories over the Beermen and the KaTropa.
Despite acquiring Ray Parks and Michael Digregorio from Blackwater, the KaTropa have found no replacement for crack point guard Jayson Castro, who suffered a foot injury that helped NLEX end TNT’s seven-game winning streak, 126-113, on Oct. 25. Castro will be out for a month.
Ginebra then spoiled Parks’ debut as KaTropa with a 96-93 decision before Magnolia outplayed TNT in Davao, winning 100-93 after leading by as much as 23 points in the first half.
Magnolia finished sixth barely a week after losing to NLEX, 86-85, on a buzzer-beating putback by Jericho Cruz. NLEX had trailed Magnolia by 26 points after a listless start in the first half where coach Yeng Guiao, during one timeout, yelled at his players as “mga walang utak” (brainless).
Despite losing to NorthPort in its next game, NLEX stayed on top with Meralco at 8-2 and can finish as No. 1 with a win over Alaska also this Wednesday. Meralco is favored over Rain or Shine in yesterday’s game but the Road Warriors have the edge in a possible tie for first with their earlier win over the Bolts.
NorthPort and Alaska can complete the last two slots in the quarterfinals with victories over their final foes. Otherwise, they’ll end up tied at 4-7 with Columbian Dyip, which bowed out after a 113-90 rout from Ginebra. Rain or Shine can also join the logjam with an upset over Meralco.
In a four-way tie, the team with the best PBA quotient gets the No. 7 slot, the next two squads then play off for No. 8 and the worst side joins the company of also-rans Phoenix and Blackwater.