Five-peat all-Filipino champ San Miguel Beer and Rain or Shine clash in the final Petron Blaze Saturday Special in the PBA Commissioner's Cup in Cagayan de Oro, each side determined to nail the win to boost their respective playoff drives.
It's the final assignment in the elims for the Elasto Painters (5-5), and they're bent to win it to clinch a spot in the best-of-three quarterfinals among the No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 playoff seeds.
The Beermen are half-game behind at 4-5. A split of their last two games gives them a shot at the Final Eight while a sweep propels them to the Top Six.
The Elasto Painters and the Beermen play at 5 p.m. that could well draw a mammoth crowd at the Xavier U Gymnasium.
SMB has been on a resurgence on the arrival of Chris McCullough while ROS is back on a climb despite the sidelining of Denzel Bowles due to a knee injury.
The E-Painters beat the Alaska Milk Aces, 86-84, with their local core then upstaged the Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots, 86-82, with the help of Carl Montgomery.
Bowles has just been put on the injured list and may return come playoff time.
The E-Painters bank on Montgomery once again as they try to pull the rug from under the Beermen and sensational new import McCullough, a former NBA top draft pick debuting with 47 points then following it up with 37 markers in his first two games in the local pro league.
Needless to say, Montgomery and his teammates face an uphill battle against the Beermen, especially with James Yap and Maverick Ahanmisi also sidelined by injuries.
ROS coach Caloy Garcia is calling on his locals to step up as Montgomery is handicapped in being short in this tourney featuring 6-foot-10 imports.
"He isn't the tallest nor the strongest import but he gives us the energy that we need," said Garcia. "I want our locals to step up as we're probably the smallest team right now."
The E-Painters have to make their outside shots to unclog the lane where they face McCullough, June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger and Kelly Nabong.
The Beermen, meanwhile, simply want to get going after hitting good strides in victories over NLEX (109-105) and Phoenix Pulse (128-108).
McCullough was a sparkplug with his firepower from inside and out.(SB)