By TITO S. TALAO
Games Today (Smart Araneta)
5:15 p.m. San Mig vs Air21
7:30 p.m. Alaska vs Ginebra
Manila, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Alfrancis Chua has steadfastly refused to look beyond the game at hand, keeping the Kings focused on the day’s opponent. But at third place following a remarkable return from the depths and with a shot at the second twice-to-beat slot in the playoffs, the urge could be irresistible this time.
Owners of a six-game winning streak, a run that wiped out a 0-4 start and catapulted them to the quarterfinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, the Kings face league-leader Alaska Milk today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, looking not just to extend their run and avoid falling to the No. 7 or No. 8 spot but also at the possibility of catching Rain or Shine at No. 2.
Game time is at 7:30 p.m. following the curtain raiser between defending champion San Mig Coffee (6-6) and Air21 (5-7).
Neither the Mixers (6-6) nor the Express (5-7) could afford a loss with 9th-running Barako Bull (4-8) still in contention for a playoff berth.
The top two teams after the 14-game classification round get twice-to-beat advantages when they play the two lowest-ranked teams in the quarters.
The Kings have no choice but to consider the prospect, no matter how remote.
Alaska, with a 9-3 win-loss card, appears to have a lock on one of the beat-twice incentives – unless disaster strikes and the Aces drop their last two games – against Ginebra and last-placed Globalport (2-10) on Friday.
Complications could arise if that happens, and Ginebra and Petron Blaze, tied with 7-5 records, win their remaining games. The odds, however, don’t favor an Alaska collapse, especially with the way coach Luigi Trillo has been steering the team.
The Kings could be doubly motivated though.
Debuting a new import named Vernon Macklin, a former Detroit Piston, on Feb. 23 in a Phoenix Petroleum Road Tour game in Tubod, Lanao del Norte, Ginebra was promptly dispatched, 8469, by the Aces’ for their fourth straight victory and the Kings’ fourth consecutive loss.
Things have continued just fine for Alaska after that, and similarly with Ginebra which has rebounded with a fury on the strength of its slam-dunking reinforcement now christened V-Mac.
The Kings have won seven of their last eight games, clinching a playoff spot last Sunday when Meralco import Eric Dawson’s baseline floater at the buzzer failed to fall in a 91-90 thriller. The Aces, on the other hand, saw the unbeaten start eventually snapped but had nonetheless won ﬁve of their next eight games to stand at No. 1.
A loss here could send the Kings crashing to the 7th or 8th slot, but a win would set up an important rematch on April 14 with the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters who they beat 107-100 four weeks ago.
Ginebra star Mark Caguioa, who will continue to sit out the Kings’ remaining elimination round games to give his MCL-sprained left knee more time to heal, will have a teammate joining him on the bench, center Billy Mamaril, who suffered a minor hand fracture in the Meralco game.