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HOOPS

Hotshots chase playoff bonus

Games Wednesday

(Smart Araneta Coliseum)

3 p.m. — TNT vs Meralco

5:45 p.m. — Magnolia vs San Miguel

Already keeping a hold of the top spot, Magnolia zeroes in on an outright quarterfinals entry against dangerous San Miguel Beer in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Hotshots and the Beermen collide at 5:45 p.m. right after an equally-important battle between TNT Tropang Giga and Meralco in the curtain-raiser at 3 p.m.

Bay Area and Converge — the hottest team in the tournament — had already made their way to the quarterfinal round after hammering victories in contrasting fashions, and Magnolia can formalize its entry with a win over a San Miguel team that is desperate to keep its head above water.

The Beermen had found themselves in an unfamiliar territory as the Philippine Cup champions and winners of the all-Filipino tournament six of the last eight seasons, could only win three of their seven games so far.

At a stage where every game counts, the Beermen will need to get every win they could get to keep their playoff hopes alive, beginning with their encounter with a solid Hotshots team that also has unfinished business in this import-laden conference.

With the Dragons and the FiberXers, who own the league-best seven-game winning run, breathing down their necks, the Hotshots want to create some space and boost their chances of securing one of the top two berths that carry a twice-to-beat incentive.

TNT and Meralco, two teams which are constantly figuring in the playoffs, are also in an unfamiliar territory in the closing stage of the elimination round.

The Tropang Giga, champions of the Philippine Cup last season, and had been in the championship round twice in the last three conferences, are battling for survival to keep their spot within the top eight.

That’s the modest goal so far for coach Chot Reyes and his troops, who battled injuries and internal turmoil all conference long.

Injuries to key players had also been the problem of the Bolts, who despite posting their first back-to-back victories in the tournament, still have a lot of catching up to do.

With a 3-5 win-loss record, the Bolts are still at 10th spot and will have to make their move fast to qualify for the top eight.

Injuries to key players like Chris Newsome, Cliff Hodge and previously, Chris Banchero, had definitely hurt the Bolts’ rotation, add to that their import situation they need to deal with the past few weeks.

After sending National Basketball Association veteran Johnny O’Bryant home, Meralco had to scramble finding another replacement import when Jessie Govan, the supposed replacement, was measured exceeding the 6-foot-10 height limit.

Meralco was forced to bring in K.J. McDaniels, who normally sees action in the Governors’ Cup, with the hopes of reviving its playoff chances while developing chemistry for the season-ending conference.

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