By Jonas Terrado
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Blackwater vs Rain or Shine
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Phoenix
Co-leader Rain or Shine tries to become the first team to formally enter the quarterfinals when it takes on a revitalized Blackwater side tonight in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters, tied for the top spot with TNT KaTropa, go for their seventh win in eight matches in the 4:30 p.m. match against the Elite team two days removed from scoring its first win of the conference after a 0-7 start.
Meralco and Phoenix face off in the other game at 7 p.m., the two teams needing a win to fortify their respective quarterfinal bids.
The Bolts are in fourth place at 4-2 while the Fuel Masters are tied for fifth to seventh with defending champion San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok at 3-3.
Despite its impending entry to the quarters, Rain or Shine is aspiring to gain a top two finish in the elims which would give coach Caloy Garcia’s wards a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters.
“We can’t relax, we’re playing okay,” said Garcia, whose team has shown resolved during the first seven games by winning all three overtime encounters against Alaska, San Miguel and Magnolia.
Rain or Shine defeated Magnolia, 99-96, last Saturday at the Big Dome.
“It just shows the character of the team na we can win close games,” added Garcia.
Hulking import Reggie Johnson, who is averaging 24.7 points, 17.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 blocks, hopes to continue wrecking havoc in the paint with help from top locals Chris Tiu, Gabe Norwood, Raymond Almazan, Beau Belga and Maverick Ahanmisi.
Almazan has regained his All-Star form this conference at 16.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks even as Tiu continues to show offensive improvements with averages of 12.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.7 steals.
Blackwater, on the other hand, is looking to score another upset after bringing down Magnolia, 86-84, on Henry Walker’s game-winning jam with 3.4 seconds remaining.
Coach Bong Ramos hopes to get the same fight from Poy Erram and Allein Maliksi in hopes of keeping Elite’s quarterfinal hopes.