IT’S either more work or early vacation as Star and Mahindra face off for the eighth and last playoff spot in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
With similar 4-6 win-loss records, the Hotshots and Enforcers tangle at 4:15 p.m. with the winner completing the postseason cast and earning the right to face the top seed, currently Meralco.
The Hotshots are seeking to sustain their string of 14 consecutive postseason appearances - a streak they certainly do not want to end in Jason Webb's second tournament as head coach.
“Pag dating ng do-or-die, gagawin mo lahat,” Hotshots star Marc Pingris told Spin.ph. “Pagod ka man o may masakit sa katawan mo, parang Game Seven ng finals yan eh, so gagawin mo lahat.
“Wala ka ng ititira dito, ubusan na,” he added.
Pingris and the Hotshots have never missed the playoffs in six years or since the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup.
“Nakalimutan ko na yun, ganun na katagal,” Pingris said. “Pero mananalo kami dyan. Ayaw ko pa magbakasyon eh.”
The loser faces a long layoff with the Governors’ Cup not unfolding until after the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July – or possibly after the Rio Olympics in August, if Gilas Pilipinas makes it.
“Hindi ako sanay (sa mahabang bakasyon),” said Pingris, who anchors the frontline with import Ricardo Ratliffe. “Kung sakali, matagal-tagal din yun ah.”
The perennial playoff-contending Hotshots must bring their A-game against an Enforcers side that’s eager to make a maiden appearance in the postseason in just its second season in the league.
“We know we’re the underdog because of the talent and experience of Star,” Enforcers coach Chito Victolero admitted. “But sometimes in do-or-die games, the desire and will to win are very important to cover the weaknesses and underdog situation we have.”
“All of our sacrifices, painful losses, good wins, and all the good and bad experiences we’ve gained this conference, it boils down to one very important game,” added Victolero, who leans on reinforcement August Gilchrist as well as locals LA Revilla, Aldrech Ramos and Nino Canaleta.
The win-or-go-home match is just an appetizer for the second game between crowd favorite Ginebra (6-4) and league-leading Meralco (8-2) at 7 o’clock.