By JONAS TERRADO
The quarterfinal race in the PBA Philippine Cup has become more complicated with seven teams still in the hunt for the four remaining berths in the next phase of the season-opening tournament.
Rain or Shine is almost assured of joining defending champion San Miguel, Magnolia, NLEX and Alaska in the quarters while Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Phoenix, GlobalPort, TNT KaTropa, Meralco and Blackwater are in desperate modes going into the final five playdates of the eliminations.
On the other hand, San Miguel and Magnolia have formed a breakaway group as far as the chase for the top two spots and the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals, with Rain or Shine possibly sneaking its way, Alaska slowly fading and NLEX possibly joining the fray.
San Miguel is on top of the standings at 7-2 followed by Magnolia at 7-3, Rain or Shine 5-3 and NLEX and Alaska with identical 6-4 records.
Ginebra dropped to 5-5 after its 84-82 loss to Meralco Sunday at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, Phoenix and GlobalPort are tied at 4-5 and TNT KaTropa, Meralco and Blackwater holding similar 4-6 slates.
Kia is the only team out of playoff contention with its dismal 1-8 record.
All remaining elims matches have playoff implications, beginning with this week’s pair of doubleheaders at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
GlobalPort battles Kia and Blackwater faces Phoenix tomorrow while San Miguel plays Kia followed by Rain or Shine opposite Alaska Friday.
Magnolia takes on Meralco Saturday at the Xavier University gym in Cagayan de Oro City before the league takes a break on Sunday to give way to Gilas Pilipinas’ match against Japan in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena.
PBA action resumes Feb. 28 at the Mall of Asia Arena with TNT squaring off with NLEX in the first game followed by San Miguel and Rain or Shine before the elims conclude on March 2 with Phoenix facing GlobalPort and Ginebra battling Rain or Shine.
By that time, the playoff picture could have a clearer view.