TOP seeds Phoenix and Rain or Shine try to cut short their route to the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals as they seek to finish off their respective opponents when they open their playoff series on Sunday.
The Fuel Masters tangle with eighth seed Alaska Aces in the 7 p.m. main game of a doubleheader at the Mall of Asia Arena, with No. 2 seed Elasto Painters squaring off with No. 7 NorthPorth Batang Pier in the curtain raiser.
A win by both Phoenix and Rain or Shine will have them advancing outright to the semifinals.
It’s easier said than done.
Phoenix coach Louie Alas is a bit concerned after the long layoff the team had since capping off their elimination round campaign last March 16 with a huge 96-93 win over defending champion San Miguel in Panabo, Davao to secure the No. 1 seed.
“The break allow our players to heal their injuries, but our dilemma is rustiness,” said Alas.
“That’s why we continued to practice even during the All-Star weekend. Ayokong matengga ang team,” said the Phoenix coach, who brought along the entire Fuel Masters team in Calasiao, Pangasinan to practice as he handled the North side during the All-Star game last week.
The Fuel Masters are also seeking their first playoffs win in franchise history. They also enjoyed a twice-to-beat edge as the No. 2 seed during the Governors Cup playoffs last season only to be beaten twice by seventh seed Meralco Bolts.
Alas will also be facing an Alaska team where he once served as long-time deputy with coaches Luigi Trillo and Alex Compton as the Aces secured the last quarterfinals berth after beating NLEX in a playoff Friday, 88-80.
The long break is also a concern of Rain or Shine mentor as they also went on a three-week break since playing their last game in a win over Meralco, 88-85.
During the stretch, the Elasto Painters went on a three-day team building in La Union to strengthen even more the Elasto Painters’ camaraderie.
But they face a dangerous Batang Pier team which needed to win their last three outings in the eliminations to clinch the No. 7 berth.
Last season in the Commissioner’s Cup, the Elasto Painters almost lost their twice-to-beat edge over the Batang Pier, winning their do-or-die encounter to advance to the semifinal round.