Struggling and on the verge of elimination, Phoenix tries to hang on

Sep 12, 2017

THE trades recently entered into by Phoenix are geared more towards the future.

Still, Fuel Masters coach Ariel Vanguardia is hoping the dividends from those deals would come sooner than later for his team to salvage its flagging campaign in the PBA Governors Cup.

"(Those trades) give us more options and ammunitions for future trades," said Vanguardia, referring to the exchanges with Meralco and TNT approved by the league only last Monday that netted his team two draft picks.

"We are still hoping we can catch the last bus for this conference," added Vanguardia.

Whether Phoenix intends to close any more deal, it must be sealed before it collides with Rain or Shine Wednesday at the Ynares center in Antipolo City.

A win by the Elasto Painters would give them a share of at least fifth-running spot while the Fuel Masters are not only aiming to snap out of a seven-game tailspin but also fan their flickering hopes of making it through to the quarterfinals via the back door.

To realize that, Phoenix must not only win against Rain or Shine but also against San Miguel Beer next Wednesday and hope its total four victories would be enough for it to play off for the eighth and last quarterfinals slot.

"Last chance for us to catch the last bus," said Vanguardia. "We need to play as if our lives depended on it."

That would take some doing, according to Vanguardia himself.

Brandon Brown has been an effective replacement for Phelps, averaging a league-high 36.5 points on top of 17.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the four games he has played here.

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Yet the Phoenix locals, particularly RJ Jazul, Jeff Chan and JC Intal, have failed to give their import the projected and much-needed support - to the chagrin of Vanguardia.

"We're struggling with the transition, from inside-oriented to outside," Vanguardia has said in a previous interview. "Kulang ng bigs."

That frontline became thinner when Norbert Torres has to be given up in the said trades, leaving the Fuel Masters at a clear disadvantage against an E-Painters crew that has J'Nathan Bullock, Beau Belga, Raymond Almazan and Jewel Ponferrada.

Still, Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia knows playing a desperate team like Phoenix has its traps.

In order to avoid such pitfalls, Maverick Ahanmisi, Jericho Cruz and Chris Tiu must hold their own against the Matthew Wright-led Phoenix backcourt while Bullock, Gabe Norwood and Ponferrada should alternate in stymieing Brown.