Top teams Magnolia, Phoenix square off against crucial foes


Tyler Bey (No. 0) may be taking down defenses, but contributions up and down the roster is what’s fueling Magnolia ’s current run. —PBA IMAGES

Magnolia looks to reclaim its groove while Phoenix Super LPG hopes to stay on theirs in a PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) Commissioner’s Cup doubleheader on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum that will heavily impact the race for the Top 4 spots.

The Hotshots, reeling from a sobering 113-110 loss to Rain or Shine in Cagayan de Oro City last weekend, will try to pounce on the struggles of Terrafirma starting at 8 p.m.

Count on head coach Chito Victolero to give the struggling Dyip no quarters as winning not only puts the Hotshots (7-1, win-loss) back on the win column but also affords the club some sort of a separation—albeit narrowly—from Meralco and the Fuel Masters, who are both sitting on a 6-1 mark and are also gunning for the coveted twice-to-beat protection.

Plus, Magnolia should draw plenty of lessons from that stunning defeat at the hands of the struggling Elastopainters, who are still scurrying for wins in a shrinking elimination round schedule.

A Terrafirma victory, on the other hand, gives Johnedel Cardel and his charges a 2-5 mark that serves as a life raft in a campaign that has been looking bleak.

The first game looks just as interesting as Phoenix is staking its five-game streak against a dangerous NorthPort that has become even deeper after the addition of several role players.

“They’ve got some new players: Allyn Bulanadi, Ben Adamos, Kris Rosales who can give us problems,” said coach Jamike Jarin, referring to the Batang Pier’s pickups from the three-team swap centered on Robert Bolick that involved NLEX and San Miguel Beer.

The Fuel Masters will have a slight advantage having been well-rested. They last played on Dec. 9, in an 83-77 upset of defending champion Barangay Ginebra in San Jose, Batangas.

But NorthPort is just as eager to shore up their 5-3 record, as doing so also gives the Batang Pier a big boost in that footrace for the playoff bonus and plucks them out of a tie with perennial title contender San Miguel Beer. “We still need to win some more and get that twice-to-beat advantage,” Jarin said. “For us, in our culture, the most important game is the next game.” INQ

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