Barangay Ginebra looks to keep title defense alive, battles Phoenix
If Barangay Ginebra can indeed turn on a switch, then it’s high time that the Gin Kings do so on Wednesday night.
With their backs pressed so hard against the wall, the Kings clash in what is practically a make-or-break playoff game against Phoenix Super LPG as the defending champions need a win to stay in the running for a quarterfinal berth in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup at Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Out of the magic circle of eight with a 3-5 card and a two-game slide going, the Kings square off with the Fuel Masters at 6 p.m. with Phoenix coach Topex Robinson knowing that they could put Ginebra in a much tighter bind while enhancing their own playoff chances with a win.
“We still have a lot of things to work on as a team,” said Robinson after Phoenix routed doormat Blackwater, 114-92, last Saturday. “Good thing about us is we have control of our destiny. So, we just have to grind it out in our last two games.”
The new schedule released on Tuesday shows Ginebra playing again on Friday, against Alaska, and will close out against Meralco sometime next week.
“We wish we could play our last two games again and do it differently. But we can’t,” said Kings coach Tim Cone. “We just have to keep moving forward.”
As things stand, only league-leading TNT is assured of a quarterfinal slot with only the Bossing out of the running with a 0-9 slate. All the other teams in the middle have mathematical chances, although some of them would need sweeps of their remaining games, like Ginebra.
NorthPort, meanwhile, will put a three-game roll on the line when the Batang Pier test the Tropang Giga, who can lock up No. 1 ranking with a victory.
After TNT’s 8-1 record, the Bolts are running close behind with a 5-2 card and four games left to play, while Magnolia is at 6-3 with two assignments left. San Miguel Beer is at 5-3 and Rain or Shine has one game remaining to improve on a 6-4 slate.
Ginebra destroyed Phoenix the last time they played, 86-71, in the bubble during last season’s PH Cup in Angeles.
The Kings will come into this season’s crucial contest against the Fuel Masters a different team in terms of composition, as they have added Christian Standhardinger to the mix and will not rely on a relief center to do the job for them, unlike last year when Greg Slaughter sat it out.
Phoenix, on the other hand, is headed the right direction as far as gunslinger Matthew Wright sees it. The Fuel Masters, who came a win short of making the Finals last season, are working on a two-game winning streak.
“I’m starting to see our team developing an identity, offensively and defensively,” Wright said. “So I think we’re moving on the right track and that’s all I could really hope for.”
“Two big games coming up against Ginebra and San Miguel,” added Wright. “Two very winnable games and we’re very confident against those teams. These next two games against two giants are going to be huge.
“As good as those two teams are, they got to guard us, too.” INQ
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