Rain or Shine completes quarterfinal cast, but last playdate still needed to sort out pairing
One key question was answered on Thursday evening: What eight teams will comprise the PBA Philippine Cup’s quarterfinal round?
Rain or Shine cemented that cast, riding on a hot start by James Yap and then holding off dangerous TNT at the stretch in an 80-74 victory at Angeles University Foundation in Pampanga province.
That gave the Painters the last playoff berth, but the tournament will need Wednesday to unlock the final standings and the quarterfinal pairings.
As things stand, only Barangay Ginebra is in a more or less secure place, having clinched the No. 1 berth—and twice-to-beat protection in the quarterfinals—after a victory over Terrafirma last Monday.
The rest? Put it this way: As many as seven teams can be jammed in a seven-win, four-loss deadlock, necessitating application of the quotient system.
“James Yap started the fire for us,” Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia told reporters after the game.
The Painters will need to keep that fire burning. Rain or Shine faces Phoenix in a match that could determine its fate for the rest of the tournament.
Yap helped Rain or Shine build a strong start, scoring 16 points in the first half, where the Painters seized control. They were ahead by 10, 67-57, at the start of the fourth before TNT rallied strong and caught up in the stretch, with Ray Parks Jr. knotting the count at 72 with a longer-than-regulation triple going into the final two minutes of the match.
But the Tropang Giga bungled several attempts down the wire and took a fourth loss in 11 outings.
“[The victory] releases lots of pressure, especially from the player’s side,” Garcia said.
Alaska also put itself in contention for a Top 4 spot with a 122-119 victory over NLEX earlier in the day. Teams in the first four spots will only need to beat their quarterfinal opponents once to advance to the semifinals. Outside of the upper half, a team will need to win back-to-back against their quarterfinal foe to advance.
“I remember me saying that as long as we improve every game, things are going to come our way,” Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso told reporters after the game.
It will take a complicated mathematical route for Alaska to get to the Top 4. The Aces won their seventh game in 11 outings and are currently tied with TNT.
San Miguel also finished the elimination round at 7-4 after drubbing NorthPort, 120-99 later in the night, and even coach Leo Austria is unsure of where his team will be when the playoffs start.
“But what is important for us is we’re able to win this game, especially the last two games, because we knew these two games could give us a ride to the quarterfinals or [to] the Top 4,” Austria said. “But we don’t know yet what will happen and it will depend on the results of the games tomorrow.”
Here’s what could happen on Wednesday: Victories by Rain or Shine, Magnolia and Meralco on Wednesday will also put them at 7-4. That means Phoenix, which will play the Painters in the last elimination round playdate, will also drop to 7-4, bringing to seven the number of teams with the same records.
Arwind Santos finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Beermen, which had two other players chipping in 21 points each—Mo Tautuaa, who also had nine rebounds, and Marcio Lassiter, who drained four out of six triple attempts.
Kelly Nabong led NorthPort with 29 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Mocon, meanwhile, put together a double-double outing of 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Painters also snuffed NLEX’s chances at forcing a do-or-die for the last playoff berth.
Beau Belga, Mark Borboran and Gabe Norwood all chipped in offensively while the Rain or Shine defense clamped down hard on TNT’s main guns Roger Pogoy and Parks who were limited to just a total of 20 points.
“Before entering the bubble, I told the players, ‘Everyone has to trust each other.’ They have to trust us whenever we do the game plans. [The players also] have to trust us with what we decide. At the same time, we’re trusting anything from their side—like their suggestions,” Garcia said.
Troy Rosario had 18 points to lead the Tropang Giga’s charges. INQ
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