National

Must-win for Painters

Must-win for Painters

Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia rued about his players not being themselves in their last two games.

They better start finding their old form fast or let a quarterfinal bonus in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs slip out of their hands.

The Elasto Painters shoot to at least have the second best record heading into the playoffs when they battle back-to-the-wall Meralco on Friday, needing no less than a win to keep their bid for a twice-to-beat advantage alive at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay.

“We have to go hard against Meralco if we want to have a chance at a top two [finish],” Garcia had said after an 85-82 loss to Columbian that doomed them to their first losing streak of the season.

“We spent the past week showing them (players) why we felt that they were not the same players that played earlier [in] the eliminations,” Garcia said. “And I think we addressed that already.”

“It was a pity that we lost that game,” Garcia told the Inquirer on Thursday, reflecting on what could have been had they snapped a three-game losing streak against the Dyip dating back to last season. “I told the players that had we won that game, we would have been OK already.”

Their last chance at taking that quarterfinal bonus rests entirely on a win against the Bolts in the 7 p.m. game, and Garcia knows that Meralco will not be an easy customer, considering that it is also pushing hard for a playoff berth.

“There’s pressure on both teams, definitely,” Garcia said. “I just told my players to have fun while keeping our objective in sight.”

A win would allow the Painters to close out their elimination campaign with an 8-3 record, a mark Garcia believes could also be achieved by “four or five more teams,” including TNT KaTropa.

Incidentally, the Texters need to sweep their remaining three games to get there, counting a 4:30 p.m. clash with an Alaska side that is trying to battle through a spate of injuries to key men.

“We have a lock on a top six but we definitely want to go top two,” Garcia said. “And we are hoping for some of the teams to lose. But we need to win over Meralco.”

Rain or Shine has defeated Phoenix Pulse, San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra earlier in the eliminations, and the Painters will have the inside track on a playoff bonus if they end up tied with those teams.

“I think that if we win [against Meralco], and TNT loses [one of its last games], then that’s the only time that we are safe,” he said.

On paper, the Painters have the advantage in manpower, with Gilas Pilipinas mainstays Gabe Norwood and Raymond Almazan leading the charge.

Meralco, meanwhile, is at 3-5 and also needs to win games in a string if it hopes to make it past this round.

The Bolts will be coming off a victory over NorthPort, a double overtime thriller which will give them some momentum heading into this crucial game.

The Texters are one of the hottest teams in the tournament with a three-game winning streak going, and they will be clashing with an Alaska side that has lost its last two in lopsided manner.

The Aces continue to be without leading scorer Vic Manuel and fellow starters Simon Enciso, Kevin Racal and JV Casio.

Alaska has four games left, and at 3-4, needs to sweep those outings to have a chance at making the playoffs in the upper half.