(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
The Hotshots erase an early deficit to enhance chances of a Top 2 finish.
They knew the importance of this game. They stumbled early on but came back firing on all cylinders in the second half. Eventually, they got what they came for: an important win.
The Magnolia Hotshots erased a double-digit deficit and even managed to break through the pressing defense that the Global Port Batang Pier were employing to get a decisive 96-81 victory that increased the Hotshots' record to 7-3. Just how important this win was for the Hotshots? First and foremost, the win enabled Magnolia to break the tie for second and third places in the standings.
But the more important reason why Magnolia was so eager about this win was that they now have a higher chance of finishing the elimination round in the Top 2 which will give the top two teams a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. On the other hand, the Batang Pier failed to sustain their pressing defense as they were given a taste of their own medicine which has put them in a critical situation, now with a 4-5 record- tied for 7th place along with the Blackwater Elite and the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
What happened? Below are the numbers that worked well for the Hotshots:
59 Bench Points
In hopes to keep his stars fresh in time for the playoffs, Magnolia Coach Chito Victolero opted to have Paul Lee, Mark Barroca and Ian Sangalang come off the bench and it paid off at the end. Following the lead of Rome Dela Rosa who scored 18 points- a new career-high, Ian Sangalang had 14 points and 6 rebounds while Paul Lee and Mark Barroca had 13 points and 12 points respectively. In fact, the 4 of them outscored the entire bench of the Batang Pier, 57-36.
Defensively, it was an all-around effort for the Hotshots. They have limited Stanley Pringle to 5 points on 1 for 11 field goal shooting. Magnolia also has 9 steals and forced 22 Global Port turnovers which the Hotshots converted into 24 turnover points. They also won the battle in the second-chance points, 12-4.
Magnolia will play against the fading away Meralco Bolts as the former's final game in the elimination round of the PBA Philippine Cup. For the Hotshots, win that game and you are ensured of a top 2 finish. Lose that game and there will be complications. Serious ones.