ADMITTEDLY, Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok has strayed from its path on the defensive end and has lost two straight games as a result.
The Hotshots intend to bring back their defensive intensity, more so now that they have adopted a playoff mode going to their match with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters parading a new import Wednesday in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rain or Shine hopes to notch a second straight win, snatch fifth-running spot from Magnolia and in the process boost its own bid for inclusion among the top eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals, a seat it would secure with another victory against San Miguel Beer on July 23.
On the other hand, a win in the game which coach Chito Victolero considers as a must-win one would assure Magnolia of at least a playoff spot for one of the quarterfinals berths and it would, in turn, latch on to that by beating TNT next Wednesday.
First, the Hotshots must work harder and make more stops, according to no less than Victolero.
"Coming from a two-game losing streak, we need to bounce back hard. Another chance to go to the quarters," said Victolero on the eve of the match.
"We need to be consistent on our defense, medyo masama depensa namin in our last two games. We need to bring back our grit on defense.
"Our mindset is, it's a do-or-die game. This is the start of our playoff mentality," added Victolero.
One source of concern for Magnolia and a factor that may favor Rain or Shine is the Hotshots' unfamiliarity with Carl Montgomery.
A last-minute replacement for Denzel Bowles, who injured his knee in the course of an 86-84 win over Alaska last Saturday, Montgomery is a Chicago State product who has had stints in Europe and, most recently, for a Singapore-based team.
The 30-year-old, listed at 6-foot-8, would be hard-pressed trying to at least equal Bowles' averages of 29 points, 12 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
It is on the other end of the floor Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia wants Montgomery to focus on.
"We hope Carl would be able to adjust to how we play and the physicality of the PBA," said Garcia. "He can give us energy because he is athletic and we just need him to play good defense."
Indeed, each of the protagonists packs a powerful punch.
Magnolia is led by James Farr, who is usually good for 22.2 points, 17.5 rebounds and 2.13 steals an outing, with chief local support expected from Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon.
For their part, Javee Mocon, Rey Nambatac, Ed Daquioag, Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga should headline those E-Painters locals backstopping Montgomery.(NC)