MAGNOLIA hopes to prove it can make do with its shorthanded lineup as the Hotshots try to gain the upper hand in Game Three of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series against NLEX on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Already without Marc Pingris for the rest of the season due to an unfortunate ACL injury, the Hotshots’ backcourt is also hurting with Justin Melton out due to a hamstring injury and Mark Barroca nursing a sprained ankle.
That’s enough for Hotshots coach Chito Victolero to label his second-seeded team as the “underdog” against the sixth-ranked and Final Four-debutante Road Warriors in their best-of-seven series that’s tied at one game apiece.
“We're undermanned, and I think we're the underdog in the series because of Ping and Justin, kasama sa rotation ang dalawa, plus si Mark Barroca is not at 100% because of a sprained ankle,” Victolero said after their 99-84 win in Game Two that atoned for a one-point loss in the series opener.
“But that's not an excuse,” he was quick to add ahead of Game Three that tips off at 7 p.m. “Sabi ko sa players ko we need to step up, we need to play together to find ways to beat NLEX.”
Paul Lee did so as he regained his lethal form by putting up 27 points in Game Two after being limited just eight markers in Game One.
Barroca also played through pain as he suited up for 25 minutes and contributed 11 points, six boards and two assists in Game Two where seven Hotshots scored at least eight points each.
And they will have to turn to another balanced effort as they rally behind the injured Pingris the rest of the series.
“Wala si Ping but yung inspiration na binibigay niya sa amin, yun ang malaki,” Victolero said. “Every now and then nagte-text si Ping, sinasabi niya sa amin na gawin ang larong ito para sa team, para sa buong team.”