MERALCO aims to take the short route to a coveted slot in the quarterfinals when it tangles with an NLEX crew driven by its own motive Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Running second on a 7-2 slate, the Bolts want a win the scheduled 3 p.m. contest that would automatically clinch for them the spot just right behind eliminations topnotcher TNT and thus would also be rewarded with a win-once advantage in the next round.
A loss is actually one Meralco could afford, but it would have to win over Barangay Ginebra at eliminations end Thursday for the Bolts to tie Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok at 8-3 but still take second by virtue of their 95-94 squeaker over the Hotshots last Sept. 1.
The sense of urgency should at least be as heightened for NLEX.
The Road Warriors could wind up as high as six or finish a rung lower, depending on the results of not only the match against the Bolts but also the other remaining matches, particularly the NorthPort-Alaska tussle ending the eliminations Thursday.
Certainly, NLEX coach Yeng Guiao and his charges would not want to drop to seventh and be placed in a twice-to-win handicap against the No. 2 team, whichever it may be.
"We are still hoping to avoid the twice-to-beat disadvantage," said Guiao on the eve of the match. "Beating Meralco will give us the chance to make sixth place even if it is not totally under our control."
Meralco has racked up back-to-back wins even with Cliff Hodge and Chris Newsome not being able to play and with Aaron Black getting sidelined by a hand injury.
Hodge and Newsome are expected to be cleared to play Wednesday, giving Guiao additional concerns. "Meralco has been solid even without Hodge, Black and Newsome in their last games," he noted, while stressing his own team should be pumped up and ready.
"The almost one week break we've had has gone a long way for our recovery and preparation," said Guiao.
"We expect to give them a good run for their money in our game tomorrow." (NC)