TWO perennial contenders with their backs against the wall battle for survival in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Tuesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Star and Talk ‘N Text seek to resuscitate their flat-lining quarterfinal hopes as they square off at 7 p.m. in the main event of the doubleheader that also pits two squads on opposite ends of the 12-team standings — league-leading San Miguel Beer and cellar-dwelling Blackwater at 4:15 p.m.
The Hotshots are running ninth, outside the magic circle of 8 with only three wins to show in eight outings and are in danger of missing the playoffs after ruling the last two editions of the season-ending conference.
And the two-time defending champions are well aware of the repercussions in the marquee matchup against their rival in last year’s Commissioner’s Cup Finals as they try to keep the remaining jewel in their grand slam season.
“We lose, the season could be over,” Hotshots import Marqus Blakely said. “Reality’s going to set in with everybody, so each possession counts and every shot we take counts.”
There’s no room for error particularly for the do-it-all American forward, who is coming off his worst game of the conference – contributing just 13 points, 10 boards, three assists, two steals, and one block, against five turnovers in their 103-88 loss to Rain or Shine last Saturday.
“We got to pride ourselves on only being able to play with our last straw,” said Blakely, who’s also hoping to draw significant support from locals led by the inconsistent James Yap as well as Marc Pingris, Joe Devance, Mark Barroca, and Alex Mallari. “If this one breaks, there’s not much room for us to make the playoffs.
But the Hotshots are ranged against an equally hungry squad in the Tropang Texters, who are right above Star and hanging on to the last quarterfinal spot with a 4-5 win-loss slate.
The Texters gained some breathing room thanks to a 98-91 win over Blackwater last Friday when they had to rally against the lowly side before pulling off the win that put an end to an uncharacteristic four-game tailspin.
“We still don’t have the luxury to look ahead,” said Texters coach Jong Uichico, who is counting on Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo, who banner a powerhouse cast that also has Matt Rosser, Larry Fonacier, and Jordanian Sam Daghles.
“But if we can play like we did against the Elite and don’t come out as flat as we did, but play more as a team and come together on the defensive end, we’ll be fine,” said TNT import Steffphon Pettigrew, who made up for a measly seven-point performance with a solid defensive effort.