THE PBA Philippine Cup'S two hottest teams , Phoenix Pulse and Rain or Shine, square off Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with not just the leadership at stake.
For the tournament-leading Fuel Masters, at least a playoff spot for a quarterfinals slot would be theirs if they rack up a sixth win in as many games.
That is also what the Elasto Painters are eyeing should they improve on their current 5-1 record with a fourth straight victory.
According to league chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III, six wins earns a team an outright quarterfinals berth based on the last four Philippine Cups with the same 12-team field and format.
Nevertheless, Phoenix coach Louie Alas expects his team to have its hands full.
"It will be a dogfight," predicted Alas on the eve of the match.
"Five-zero kami, 5-1 sila. Pero parang lamang sila because nakalaban na nila San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra," noted Alas, referring to a couple of the scalps the E-Painters have claimed thus far.
"Anyways, technically very slim lang ang difference ng comparative stats that's why tingin ko mahirap na game ito."
Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia wholeheartedly agrees. "They played well. It's gonna be a tough game," he said.
Phoenix already had a dose of a close game just last Friday, needing a Calvin Abueva block on a jump-shooting Bong Galanza to escape with an 83-82 squeaker.
Later that same evening, Rain or Shine used a 10-0 windup to hold off NorthPort 107-100.
The quick turnaround his team must make gnaws at Garcia more. "Medyo maigsi lang yung time for us to study them," he said.
"But... both teams are coming off from a game, so technically I think whoever has a deeper bench can win," added Garcia.
Alas' main concern is how his team silences Rain or Shine's long guns, which exploded for 16 triples against NorthPort.
"We have to contain 'yung mga three-point shooters nila, led by James Yap," offered Alas.
"Then mga stretch big guys, like (Norbert) Torres, (Jewel) Ponferrada, (Beau) Belga." (NC)