By TITO S. TALAO
Games Today (SM MoA Arena)
4:15 p.m. Globalport vs Barako
6:30 p.m. Ginebra vs Talk `N Text
Manila, Philippines – A sweet playoff irony in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup goes like this: While Air21 and Barako Bull would go down on their knees in thankful prayer if they finish eighth after the classification round, four other quarterfinalbound teams would actually rue to hell their fate if they wound up one rung higher.
For Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (7-6), defending champion San Mig Coffee (7-6), Meralco (6-6), and Talk `N Text (6-6) the seventh spot in the quarters is the plague, and coming in and facing No. 2 Rain or Shine from that place would be like standing at the other end of a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun.
Not only are the Elasto Painters loaded with the toughest frontline in the league, a spectacular guard rotation and a 7-foot-3 import that can shoot 3-pointers even better than their best outside gunner, they are also armed with the second twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs after the top-ranked Alaska Aces.
And if that isn’t enough, opponents would have to contend with the bald-headed man with a menacing stare and vitriolic tongue standing at the sideline and weaving his magic, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
No wonder everybody’s steering clear of No. 7.
From all that, Ginebra and Talk `N Text need no longer be reminded of what’s at stake when they clash for the second time this conference in the penultimate date of the elimination round.
Gametime is at 6:30 p.m. at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, with the Kings (7-6) looking to secure solo fourth place and the farthest point possible from the Elasto Painters at the moment and the Tropang Texters (6-6) seeking to avenge a 107-100 loss to Ginebra four weeks ago.
In the curtainraiser at 4:15 p.m., ninth-running Barako Bull (4-9), still in the hunt for the eighth and last slot to the playoffs, takes on ousted Globalport (2-11), in a game that would only have a bearing depending on the outcome of last night’s games also at the SM MoA Arena.
Ongoing at presstime are the all-important matches pitting Petron (7-5) and Air21 (5-8), and Meralco with San Mig Coffee.
A win by the Express would shut the door on the Energy Cola, but if Petron prevails, then Barako Bull would be sharpening its horns for a playoff with Air21 for the eighth spot. The winner there, if that happens, meets the Aces under the same circumstances as the Rain or Shine vs. No. 7 matchup, minus Guiao’s venomous presence and more of coach Luigi Trillo’s laid-back style.
A win by the Mixers, meanwhile, would give them fourth place and heighten interest further on the Ginebra-TNT game. If the Bolts win, matters get more complicated leading up to Wednesday’s final elimination playdate.
Ginebra star Mark Caguioa riddled TNT with 28 points that March evening as the Kings followed up their triumph over San Mig Coffee in sensational fashion on the way to a six-game winning streak that only recently got snapped.
But Caguioa won’t be around this time as he continues to rest his sprained knee ligament. Also unavailable is rugged forward Billy Mamaril, the only Ginebra frontline personnel capable of physically backing up import Vernon Macklin.
Outside ailing Kelly Williams, Talk `N Text, on the other hand, has key players coming back, including center Ali Peek. The Texters are also parading 7-footer Jerome Jordan, the former New York Knick who was Ginebra’s first choice prior to Macklin.