Michael Angelo S. Murillo,
THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup is now down to the final week of elimination play at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga, and it is set to be a competitive one with the final positioning in the playoffs still needs to be settled.
As things stand after Sunday’s matches, the TnT Tropang Giga (10-1) are already assured of the top seed in the quarterfinals and will enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage over the number eight team while the Blackwater Bossing (0-11) are already eliminated from the running.
The Meralco Bolts (7-2), Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok (8-3), San Miguel Beermen (6-4), and Rain or Shine Elastopainters (6-5) are already qualified for the next round.
Meralco has the inside track for the number two seed and the twice-to-beat incentive that goes with it with two matches left in its schedule. If it sweeps or splits its remaining games it claims the number two spot since ending up tied with Magnolia it will take the tie-break having beaten the Hotshots in the eliminations.
But if unfortunately the Bolts lose back-to-back this week, they drop to third spot and will battle the number six team in a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
The bottom half though has been rendered tricky.
Six teams are still in contention for the remaining three quarterfinal spots, namely: Northport Batang Pier (5-5), NLEX Road Warriors (5-5), Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (4-6), Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters (4-7), Terrafirma Dyip (4-7), and the Alaska Aces (3-6).
The Batang Pier, Road Warriors and Kings have a game each left in the elimination round while the Aces have two.
Phoenix and Terrafirma have finished their elimination assignments and are just waiting the final standings to know their fate.
If Northport and NLEX win their matches they automatically book a spot in the quarterfinals, but it is going to be easier said than done as they will take on teams which are looking to solidify their positions as well in the next round.
Northport will play Alaska and NLEX takes on Meralco. If the Batang Pier and Road Warriors wind up losing all is not lost for them, but it will more complicated as they can easily drop to the eight spot and have to play for their playoff lives.
Barangay Ginebra, for its part, has to win against Meralco in its last game to fan its push for the tailend of the playoff picture. With five wins, the defending champion earns at least a playoff for the eighth spot in the quarterfinals if not direct entry to the next phase.
In the event it falls to a three-way tie with Phoenix and Terrafirma at 4-7, the Kings and Fuel Masters battle for the final spot on the strength of a better quotient over the Dyip.
If the Kings do not manage to enter the quarterfinals, however, they will become the first defending champion not to advance to the playoffs in its title-defending season since the Shell team in 2000.
Alaska, meanwhile, needs to win in its last two matches to be on a firmer footing to assert its claim for a spot in the quarterfinals.
After the elimination round, the eight remaining teams slug it out in the quarterfinals with the top teams having a twice-to-beat advantage over teams eight and seven, respectively, while #3 and #6 and #4 and #5 collide in a best-of-three series.
The semifinals and the finals will be a best-of-seven affair.
The PBA will release the schedule of matches this week on Tuesday.