KIA Motors playing-coach Manny Pacquiao has vowed to play the team’s final two games in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations following the Sorento’s inspired showing against defending champion Purefoods on Wednesday night.
Team manager Eric Pineda said the world boxing great made the commitment since his boxing duties are already done following his unanimous decision win over American challenger Chris Algieri last Sunday in Macau to retain his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title.
The expansion franchise will have Meralco and NLEX for its final two assignments.
“Yes, both games he will play,” Pineda confirmed to Spin.ph on Thursday.
His left hand still sore and a little feverish, Pacquiao chose not to suit up in the Sorento’s game against the Hotshots, who fought back in the fourth quarter to foil Kia Motors’ upset bid, 88-77.
“Di lang naman siya nakapaglaro nung Wednesday dahil masakit pa yung kaliwang kamay niya saka medyo may lagnat siya,” Pineda said.
But the 35-year-old Filipino ring icon did join the team’s shootaround before the Purefoods game, drawing cheers from the crowd when he converted back-to-back three-pointers in the warm-ups.
Inspired by the return of Pacquiao to the bench, the Sorento fought the reigning champions tooth and nail, and even held a 52-43 lead late in the third quarter.
But Purefoods got its act together in the final period behind its patented choking defense and the timely baskets from Joe Devance and Mark Barroca to pull off the scrambling win.
At 1-8 (win-loss), KIA still has a slim chance to make the playoffs as long as NLEX or Barako Bull don’t get more than three wins in the eliminations, with the quotient system eventually deciding which team will grab the 10th and final spot in the playoffs.
The top two teams at the end of the elims earn automatic semis seats, while those seeded third to sixth enjoy a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals against the teams ranked seventh to 10th.