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NLEX, NorthPort in last dash for Top 6 finish

Only one team from the Road Warriors and the Batang Pier might finish at the Top 6. PBA Images (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

FIRST, a review of the PBA Philippine Cup's playoff format.

Eight teams will qualify for the quarterfinals once the elimination round comes to a close. In the case of this year's edition, the elims will end this week.

The seventh and the eighth seeds, however, will be playing the second and the first seeds, respectively, with a once-to-beat disadvantage, that is, if they lose only once, they're out of contention.

The top six teams will evade that handicap, and that is what NLEX and NorthPort are eyeing.

Both teams are in a strong position of finishing within the Top 6, which means they must be beaten twice in the quarterfinals before they can be taken out of title contention.

Although, both of them are already out of the running for the Top 2, which would hand the teams there a once-to-advance perks over the seventh and the eighth seeds (more on that when I look at the case of the Meralco Bolts and the Magnolia Hotshots), the Road Warriors and the Batang Pier could still land within the third to the sixth seeds.

The third seed will face the sixth seed, while the fourth seed battles the fifth seed in two best-of-three series to determine two of the four semifinalists.

Both NLEX and NorthPort are at 5-5, tied for sixth and seventh places, which means there's a possibility that only one of them would finish inside the Top 6.

First, the imperative: one must win its remaining game (NLEX vs. Meralco and NorthPort vs. Alaska) and hope that the other loses, and they enter the Top 6.

The best the Road Warriors can finish is sixth place even if they fell to the Bolts that would bring them down to 5-6 (more on that in a while).

But to make sure, NLEX must beat Meralco and NorthPort loses to Alaska.

The Batang Pier, however, can zoom to as high as fourth place, which means a relatively easier quarterfinal opponent if they beat the Aces and the Road Warriors fall to the Bolts.

What if both NLEX and NorthPort win?

If that's the case, then the Batang Pier take the fifth seed and the Road Warriors fall to the seventh seed, bringing the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters to the sixth seed.

This is regardless of what happens to San Miguel in its last game against Alaska, which means the former will lock in the fourth seed with either a win against the latter or if both NLEX and NorthPort win.

This also means the Beermen will face the Batang Pier in a best-of-three series, while the Elasto Painters will just look at what would happen to the Bolts' other game against Barangay Ginebra.

How about if both NLEX and NorthPort lose?

As mentioned above, the likelihood is that the Road Warriors will finish sixth even if they lose to the Bolts, but the Batang Pier must lose to the Aces.

The keyword here is "likelihood", though, which means there's a chance that things might get a little complicated.

If the Aces manage to beat the Batang Pier and also the Beermen, we might be looking at a four-way tie at 5-6 with the Gin Kings, assuming they beat the Bolts.

For now, NLEX has the highest quotient among the teams that might end up at 5-6 with plus-27, and Alaska is next at plus-4.

But do expect the Aces' quotient to rise with the win against the Batang Pier as assumed.

Alaska can actually sneak into the sixth seed if it wallops NorthPort by 24 points or more, but on paper, one may argue this might not be met.

Regardless of the eventual margin, the Batang Pier will now fight for survival against the Gin Kings in the play-in game for the eighth seed.

The scenario might still be met even if NLEX wins but not NorthPort, that is, NLEX is sixth at 6-5, Alaska is seventh at 5-6 with the best head-to-head quotient (plus-14 for now), and Ginebra and NorthPort in the wildcard game.

If the Aces beat the Batang Pier but lose to the Beermen, then the quarterfinal cast is complete, and the Road Warriors are sixth.

If NLEX beats Meralco, then Ginebra is seventh and NorthPort is eighth. Otherwise, it's the other way around.

However, if the Aces happen to sweep their games and the Gin Kings fall to the Bolts, the Road Warriors will be sixth, and whoever finishes seventh will depend on the Aces' winning margin against the Batang Pier.

The most optimal way for Alaska to seal the seventh seed is by beating NorthPort by at least six points.

But the Aces can finish seventh if the Road Warriors beat the Bolts.

To summarize:

1. If NorthPort beats Alaska, it will be inside the Top 6.

2. For NLEX to seal the sixth seed without any hitch, it must beat Meralco and hope that NorthPort loses to Alaska.

3. If the Batang Pier lose, they might fall into the Battle for 8th.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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