Beermen, Kings eye semis berths

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    WELL COVERED: Phoenix star Calvin Abueva tries to find a way to score off the double-team applied by Sidney Onwubere and Beau Belga of Rain or Shine in last Wednesday’s game won by the Fuel Masters 90-88. PBA PHOTO

    BY doing just enough San Miguel Beer got the slot it wanted in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals.

    The defending champion need to take care of business and not allow what it had worked for go to waste when it tackles Meralco today at the start of the critical duels in the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.

    Going into battle with the same goal of taking the short route to the semifinals is eliminations topnotcher Ginebra, which battles eighth-seeded Rain or Shine in the nightcap.

    The Elasto Painters had a shot at crashing the top four and its win-once reward but missed when they blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead and fell to Phoenix Super LPG 88-90 last Wednesday in a game that capped a wild finish to the eliminations.

    Averted was a seven-way tie for second place, with Phoenix tying Ginebra at 8-3 but sliding to second due to the winner-over-the-other rule.

    After quotients were applied to break the five-team logjam at 7-4, TNT emerged as the third seed while SMB took fourth, followed by Meralco, Alaska and Magnolia.

    Saturday’s matches pit the Tropang Giga against the Aces and the Fuel Msters versus the Hotshots.

    All sudden-death matches, if needed, are set Monday and the lower-ranked teams surely have those in their sights.

    For Meralco, it would be a matter of fixing one nagging problem – the tendency to ease up on the gas whenever it had built a sizable lead.

    The Bolts suffered this fate in their 82-89 loss to the Beermen last Oct. 28 and showed it anew in an 80-73 win over NorthPort earlier last Wednesday, when they almost squandered a 19-point lead.

    “It’s a concern. Even last game, we gave up a big lead to (TerraFirma),” admitted Meralco coach Norman Black. “It’s something we have to stop.”

    That simply would not do against an SMB crew now well-rested following a 120-99 romp over Terrafirma last Tuesday.

    Now that it’s playoff time, coach Leo Austria expects the Beermen to come out with even more fire and desire in their bid to remain on track for a sixth straight title in the import-less tourney, the lone tournament salvaged from the pandemic-hit season.

    “Well-motivated ang mga players at alam nila what’s at stake so sure ako that they will bring their A-game sa laro,” said Austria.