Crucial pre-FIBA break weekend ensues as QF race tightens

TNT goes on one last push to a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. Rick Dela Cruz (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Five important PBA Commissioner's Cup matches will ensue this weekend before the league gives way to the third window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.

For four teams, it's all about a Top 2 finish which means a twice-to-beat advantage or a virtual 1-0 lead in the quarterfinals.

For five others, it's all about survival.

Among the nine teams in action, only Meralco will play twice, which turns out to be its last two games in the elimination round.

Currently in a tie with Alaska for second place at 7-2, the Norman Black-led side can dictate its fate on whether it will make the Top 2 or not this weekend.

The Bolts will battle the TNT KaTropa on Friday night at 7 p.m. before taking on the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, both at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Interestingly enough, both TNT and ROS are also chasing a Top 2 spot, but they are on different scenarios.

The KaTropa, who are in fourth place at 6-3 but have now lost two straight games, must win their remaining games against the Bolts and the E-Painters on July 7 and hope that the quotients will be in their favor to score the quarterfinal bonus.

On the other hand, ROS, sitting comfortably at number one at 8-1, can not just seal a twice-to-beat edge with a win against Meralco but also lock in the top seed since it also owns the quotient edge over Alaska thanks to its 109-103 win on April 27.

The Aces will battle Barangay Ginebra, a team looking to sneak into the next round, on Sunday at 6:45 p.m. also at "The Big Dome".

Like Ginebra, however, GlobalPort, Columbian, San Miguel, and most especially NLEX are in need of wins.

The Batang Pier and the Dyip will slug it out on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in Quezon City, while the Beermen and the Road Warriors will be in Calasiao for a Saturday showdown at 5 p.m.

NLEX, however, can only hope for a four-way tie for eighth to 11th places--with preferably routs over SMB on Saturday and Magnolia, another team trying to get out of playoff complications, on July 4--to have a chance of making the quarterfinals.

In fact, one loss from either the Beermen or the Hotshots and the Road Warriors are out of contention.

On the other hand, a win by GlobalPort, Columbian, and SMB will ease some pressure from them entering the international break.

However, with the Dyip playing their last elimination game on Friday night, they can only hope as well for more favorable results in the July games.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno