Jul 11, 2019

Fuel Masters aim to stoke playoffs drive

A TWO-game losing skid, an import not at 100 percent and facing an opponent playing without pressure are not enough to dampen Phoenix Pulse coach Louie Alas' spirits.

In fact, Alas believes a few adjustments in his Fuel Masters' game should be enough for them to snap out of their funk and grab at least a playoff spot for one of the quarterfinals berths in the PBA Commissioner's Cup.

"Slim chance, but we still have a chance," said Alas on the eve of Phoenix's match with NLEX Friday at the Cuneta Astrodome.

"At nasa kamay namin, di namin kailangang umasa sa iba," added Alas.

The cellar-dwelling Road Warriors only have two wins to show in 10 games and have been eliminated from the hunt for quarterfinals seats reserved for only the top eight following the 11-game eliminations.

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Phoenix, currently tied for eighth with idle Alaska, needs a win to at least tie for a quarterfinals spot. The Fuel Masters could even make it outright if the Aces, 3-6 Meralco and/or 4-5 San Miguel Beer do not get to five wins.

A loss could take out Phoenix from the race.

Alas is only focused on his team taking care of its own business.

He even reiterated to his players the areas which they need to fine-tune after proving to be the cause of their downfall in their most recent games against Columbian and SMB, the last via a 108-128 count just two days ago.

"Kailangan lang naming maglaro bilang team," stated Alas. "I mean, we need to help one another, share the basketball, rebound the way we used to and lessen our errors."

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That could be easier said than done with Richard Howell not in full playing condition.

Howell injured his right knee early in the third quarter of the SMB game, limiting him to just 15 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in just over 28 minutes of action. He underwent tests Thursday with the results showing his case is not as worse as feared.

"He'll play," related Alas. "May bone spurs sa knee pero playable."

Howell's services are surely needed against NLEX, if only to help contain its main threat.

Olu Ashaolu has been smashing in his first two games since coming in as the Road Warriors' third import for the conference and reinforcement for the Governors' Cup, notching averages of 28.5 points, 14 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

Former TNT KaTropa Jericho Cruz has also settled in nicely and now leads the locals providing chief support along with Poy Erram, Kenneth Ighalo and Juami Tiongson.

In order for it to complement its usually-stingy defense, Phoenix must execute on offense to give its main scorers in Matthew Wright, RJ Jazul, Alex Mallari and Jason Perkins better looks and shots. (NC)