Mad scramble for playoffs

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Four games are left in the PBA Commissioners Cup eliminations and there are 16 possible playoff scenarios to consider entering todays doubleheader at the PhilSports Arena. Of 13 teams, six are guaranteed to advance to the quarters, leaving two slots open for four teams to contest.

The sure things are: Bay Area (10-2) is at No. 1 with a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters, no matter if Magnolia (9-2) beats Rain or Shine on Friday to tie the record because of the winner-over-the-other rule (Dragons beat the Hotshots, 95-89 last Nov. 19); Bay Area, Magnolia, Barangay Ginebra (8-3) and Converge (8-3) will finish in the top four; TNT (4-8), Blackwater (3-9) and Terrafirma (1-11) are out of contention; San Miguel Beer (6-5) and Phoenix (6-6) will make it to the playoffs but their position is still undetermined; NorthPort (6-6) is almost certain to advance with a 94 percent chance of qualifying; Rain or Shine (5-6), NLEX (4-7) and Meralco (4-6) are in a tight race for the last ticket to the playoffs.

Ginebra could move up to No. 2 and clinch a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters but it must beat Converge today and hope Magnolia loses to Rain or Shine. Ginebra and Magnolia will finish with identical 9-3 records in this scenario. Since Ginebra defeated Magnolia, 103-97 last Oct. 23, the Hotshots slip to No. 3.

A five-way tie for fifth place will ensue if Meralco downs NLEX and San Miguel plus Rain or Shine upsets Magnolia. This will leave San Miguel, Meralco, NorthPort, Phoenix and Rain or Shine knotted at 6-6 each. From current quotients, San Miguel is way ahead at +30 followed by Phoenix at +9, Rain or Shine at +1, NorthPort at -10 and Meralco at -30. A knockout game between the last two quotient placers, NorthPort and Meralco, will decide which team takes the eighth playoff slot. Its the only scenario where NorthPort might not be able to advance so thats a six percent chance of falling out.

NLEX isnt out of it. But the Road Warriors must beat Meralco today to stay alive plus the Bolts must also lose to San Miguel and Rain or Shine must bow to Magnolia. This scenario will set the stage for a knockout game between NLEX and Rain or Shine to decide the last playoff qualifier since theyll both end up at 5-7. Aside from making it to the playoffs, what late chasers are trying to avoid is to land in eighth place because that would mean a twice-to-win disadvantage against Bay Area in the quarters and its tough enough to beat the Dragons once but twice is a stretch.

The last four contests are crucial. Todays twinbill pits Meralco and NLEX then Converge takes on Ginebra. On Friday, the doubleheader features San Miguel and Meralco then Rain or Shine against Magnolia. The possibility of a knockout game for the eighth spot isnt remote. Of the 16 possible scenarios, eight will entail knockout games. Hold on to your seats for a wild finish.


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