Fight for no. 2

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Fight for no. 2 Empty Fight for no. 2

The way things are shaping up in the homestretch of the Philippine Basketball Association Fiesta Conference (FC), the fight for at least one of the two automatic semifinal slots is bound to go down the wire. With nearly half of the field having a decent shot at it, all teams involved could only be expected to put up a serious and tough fight for the much-coveted incentive.

For a bit of reminder, as has been the case in recent conferences, the top two finishers at the end of the elimination phase get to enjoy free passage into the semis. While those left behind still need to go through a series of wild-card and quarterfinal matches, the two automatic advancers are afforded considerable downtime to prepare and rest.

As things currently stand, the San Miguel Beermen are on their way to notching the top seed. With a 9-2 record, they only need to win at least one of their three remaining assignments to secure their place. Easier said that done of course, as there’s no such thing as gimmes nowadays in the PBA, but with two of their last three foes having losing records at this point, you have to love the chances of the Beermen.

Which leaves us with the battle for the number two spot, which is a tad tangled with four squads — defending champs Barangay Ginebra Kings, Burger King Whoppers, Purefoods TJ Giants and Rain or Shine Elastopainters — all having identical 7-5 cards and an inside track, and two others — Sta. Lucia Realtors and Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters — at 6-6 and angling to take the backdoor.

Riding on the momentum of a six-game winning streak, the Kings have come all the way from the back to stake a serious challenge for the top positions. Import David Noel is doing a Chris Alexander and proving to be a gem of a replacement and has put his team in a good position to at least defend its crown. The new additions to the team like Cyrus Baguio, Chico Lanete and JC Intal, among others, have been going in synch with the old Ginebra reliables of late which has significantly helped Ginebra’s postseason push.

Another team on a roll is Burger King, which is peaking at the right time and on the crest of a three-game win streak. The Whoppers were middling in the early part of the FC but have started to pick up the pace by virtue of playing with a sense of identity and direction. The team has placed its fate primarily on the triumvirate of All-Stars Arwind Santos and Gary Davis and import Shawn Daniels and the three have been responding in the positive.

The Giants’ push has been slowed down a bit but they remain solid and in contention. Import returnee Marquin Chandler has yet to come up with a "super" game but other Giants outside of James Yap and Kerby Raymundo have been stepping up like Rommel Adducul and PJ Simon, which makes Purefoods still dangerous.

After hitting a wall midway into the conference, the Elastopainters have regained their bearing and hitting their second wind. Import Jai Lewis is back in his formidable self while at the same time getting the needed support from the other team stars Gabe Norwood, Jay-R Reyes and Solomon Mercado, setting back on track their bid for greater heights this conference.

While technically outside looking in, no thanks to injuries and import woes, Sta. Lucia and Talk ’N Text still have a chance albeit very slim in light of the way they are stacked up in the standings. First things first they need to win their remaining games to stay at par with the leaders, and hope the others lose theirs. But the catch here is this: while a no. 2 spot is uncertain for them, they however could be spoilers as they could alter the outcome of the race for no. 2 with every victory or loss they notch.

With the stakes proving higher as the elims wrap up, PBA habitués have every reason to get excited. Who advances and who gets left behind? That we will know in the coming days.
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