Phoenix adds fuel to playoff push, with huge match around the corner
Coach Jamike Jarin usually delivers the same line whenever he is asked about the next assignment for Phoenix, which after three consecutive wins has climbed into contention for a spot in the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals.
“The most important game is the next game,” Jarin said again, this time after the Fuel Masters’ 114-106 win over the import-less Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
This time, those words will truly mean something.
Up next for Phoenix is defending champion Barangay Ginebra and Jarin is grounded enough to realize the challenge his team will face.
“They have a very good organization, they have a very good team, they got the best coach in the PBA. So it’s gonna be very, very interesting,” the rookie pro coach said.
Phoenix caught a big break against Rain or Shine, whose tournament-long import problems spilled into Wednesday night’s affair, and notched a crucial victory that allowed the Fuel masters to pad the cushion against teams also chasing one of the tailend berths of the quarterfinals.
Gin Kings triumph
Terrafirma and NorthPort currently hold similar 2-6 slates while Rain or Shine dropped to 2-7.
Now carrying a 4-5 slate, Phoenix will be in for a big challenge against a talent-deep Ginebra side on Friday. The Gin Kings defeated Meralco, 112-107, in Wednesday’s second game.
Phoenix saw veteran guard RR Garcia deliver 17 points off the bench and the usual reliables like import Du’Vaughn Maxwell, Jason Perkins and rookies Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano, who followed up his 28-point performance against Converge by sharing scoring honors with Garcia.
Against Ginebra and in the midst of bolstering its playoff hopes, Phoenix will not only hope for the same output from those key guys but also from blue-collar players like Larry Muyang, Chris Lalata and Simon Camacho, who have provided quality minutes during the streak.
1/8 of an inch
Their contributions are vital, especially with Phoenix in the thick of a busy stretch of three games in five days, ending with a match against Meralco on Sunday at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
“It’s a plus for us because we have a very, very tight schedule this week,” said Jarin of his reserves’ contributions. “We want to give ample time to our bench so we can be more fresh in the coming two games.”
Rain or Shine was forced to play sans its new import Jordan Tolbert, who exceeded the conference height limit of six-foot-six.
Tolbert was one-eighth of an inch taller than the prescribed height after he was measured a couple of hours before tipoff, leaving Rain or Shine in a quandary—previous import Greg Smith II already left the country after getting hurt against NLEX.
Even after trailing by 21, Rain or Shine was able to cut the deficit to single digits multiple times, but to no avail.
Following a third straight loss, the Elasto Painters are now in a situation of needing to win their final two games—against the NorthPort Batang Pier on Saturday and San Miguel Beermen on March 17.