TWO of the hottest teams in the league are set to collide as defending champion Purefoods Star and Rain or Shine face off on Sunday in a crucial match that has serious implications in the chase for automatic semifinal seats in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Since a slow start that saw them open the season with a 1-3 record, the Hotshots have won four in a row to climb up the standings, reviving their hopes of possibly claiming an outright spot in the semis.
But the Elasto Painters are no easy opponents, this despite playing through an incomplete lineup for practically the whole stretch of the eliminations.
[See Paul Lee denies NLEX a famous win as he rescues Rain or Shine in thrilling finish]
Chris Tiu could possibly play for Rain or Shine for the first time this season since suffering a hamstring injury. Gunner Jeff Chan has just recovered from a bout with flu, that forced him to miss the
team’s narrow 95-93 win over NLEX last Tuesday, while Jervy Cruz (calf) and Jeric Teng (back) still won’t be around.
“Kami naman, we did not really have a good start, pero itong last three games namin, kung magagamit namin ang momentum namin sa win streak and we can get a few more players healthy, kasi, masyado na maiksi ang rotation namin,” explained Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
The Painters and Hotshots clash at 5:15 p.m.
“Gabe (Norwood) has to play out of position. I hope we can have a longer rotation when we play Purefoods.”
The Hotshots are coming off a hard-earned 88-77 win over a Kia Sorento side, which played inspired last Wednesday following the return of playing coach Manny Pacquiao at the team’s bench.
[See Purefoods wakes up in the nick of time to survive scare from Pacquiao's inspired Kia side]
Against Rain or Shine, Purefoods Star coach Tim Cone isn’t expecting an easy game, pointing to the two team’s numerous playoffs battles the past seasons.
“Rain or Shine has historically been a tough matchup for us,” said Cone. “They’ve been playing very good basketball as of late, so our job even becomes harder.”