By Patrick Sutare
PASAY -- Star started the conference flat at 0-2, but was able to turn things around later, and its final game of the eliminations was the perfect dagger. On Wednesday, the Hotshots sent a blistering statement that they are indeed playoff ready, annihilating Mahindra with a 37-point drubbing, 124-87, in the PBA Philippine Cup's first game of its final elims double-header at the Cuneta Astrodome. The red-hot shooting wards in yellow and red flaunted no-mercy basketball right from the get go, pouring in 68 points just in the first 24 minutes of action, with 41 coming in the first quarter. Mahindra would hoist a scare pinch to start the third via a 13-1 blast to trim the deficit to 16, 69-53. But Star weathered the storm as reigning player of the week Allein Maliksi went on a scoring tear to lift the Hotshots to a commanding 93-67 advantage going to the fourth. Maliksi would finish with 33 points on 7- out of-8 shooting from beyond the arc as his troops held on the huge advantage till the final horn. Paul Lee chipped in 16 markers, along with three boards and five assists. The win stretched Star's hot streak to four, capping their elimination phase with a 7-4 record. They will still hope, though, for a Rain or Shine win over Alaska to grab the last twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals and set an early Manila Clasico clash with Ginebra. Despite playing with no burdens to carry on their shoulders, Mahindra failed to score an upset and suffered its eighth and last defeat of the tourney.
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