By JONAS TERRADO
Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Kia vs GlobalPort
7 p.m. – Blackwater vs Phoenix
Blackwater hopes to end the elimination round not only on a winning note but also stay in contention for a quarterfinals berth as it battles Phoenix tonight in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elite, who are coming off a 93-90 loss to the NLEX Road Warriors last Sunday, fight for dear life in the 7 p.m. match with a Fuel Masters side also seeking a victory to keep an inside track at making the eight-team quarters of the season-opening conference.
Also eyeing a win are the GlobalPort Batang Pier, who are likely to have an easier task of getting the result against the struggling Kia Picanto in the 4:30 p.m. opener.
Phoenix and GlobalPort have identical 4-5 slates for a share of seventh and eighth places while Blackwater is tied with TNT KaTropa and Meralco at ninth with similar 4-6 records.
Blackwater blew a chance at climbing inside the top eight when it blew a fourth quarter lead against NLEX at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, the match ending on Mac Belo’s missed three-point attempt.
The Elite are eager to redeem themselves but will have to do it minus Allein Maliksi, who is in Melbourne for Gilas Pilipinas’ match against Australia tomorrow in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Mike DiGregorio, Belo and Poy Erram hold the key to Blackwater’s quest to remain in the playoff hunt.
Phoenix is also eyeing redemption after losing 92-90 to Meralco exactly a week ago. The Fuel Masters also go to the match without a key player because of Gilas duties in scorer Matthew Wright.
GlobalPort, on the other hand, tries to bounce back after a 96-81 loss to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok Friday night. In that game, the Batang Pier held a big lead before allowing the Hotshots to make a third quarter rally.
Determined to derail GlobalPort is Kia, a team that despite being the first team to be out of playoff contention is aching to win its last two matches.
The Picanto, who have a 1-8 slate, conclude their elims assignment on Friday against the defending champion San Miguel Beermen.