July 20, 2019
Magnolia and Blackwater are on a hunt for an early lead as they take on separate rivals today at the start of the best-of-three quarterfinals of Season 44 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The No. 5 Hotshots will face No. 4 Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at 6:45 p.m., while the No. 3 Elite meet No.6 Rain or Shine at 4:30 p.m.
“We will just try to prepare hard and be positive after a four-game losing streak. It’s tough, but the good thing is we have a chance. It’s equal opportunity that we’re in best-of-three instead of falling to seventh or eighth with a twice-to-beat disadvantage. We like our chances,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.
Rakeem Christmas, a replacement for James Farr, had a measly eight points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field plus 14 rebounds in his debut with Magnolia. The KaTropa’s 98-83 win over the Hotshots earned them the top seeding.
“He (Christmas) needs to acclimatize to the weather and he had a jetlag,” added Victolero.
The Gin Kings finished the elimination round with 7-4 win-loss record, after escaping Columbian Dyip, 127-123, in overtime behind Justin Brownlee’s career-high 50 points and 14 rebounds.
“It’s the playoffs so it’s always times-two in terms of motivation. The last two conferences, we’ve beaten them in the elims only to fall short against them in the playoffs. We need to change that narrative this time around. They always find a way to play big in the playoffs so, as usual, we’ll need to lift our game. It’s going to be a great battle,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
Blackwater, meanwhile, will field in returning import Greg Smith when it faces Rain or Shine. Stephon Blair was incapacitated by a knee injury last week after the Elite’s 112-104 win against Alaska.
“Pretty good chances we have, as we’re winning lately but we need to prepare hard and be ready. Rain or Shine is a champion team and no push over,” said Elite team owner Dioceldo Sy.
“Good thing for us is the return of Greg Smith. He will add more energy and positivity to the team.”
Rain or Shine finished the elims at No. 6. RoS avoided facing twice-to-beat holder No. 2 Northport in the quarterfinals after San Miguel Beer lost to Meralco, 91-95.
San Miguel Beer fell to No. 7 to face the twice-to-beat holder Northport.
Magnolia, San Miguel Beer and Rain or Shine ended the elimination with a similar win-loss record of 5-6 . But the Beermen dropped to No. 7 after a huge loss to the Hotshots and a lesser quotient.
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