MAINLY because of its storied past, Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok is still expected to make the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs.
The same cannot be said of Columbian, which has gone past the eliminations of any conference for just once in the last five years.
Yet the Dyip and Hotshots seemed to have switched roles with the former raising a lot of eyebrows with their fine start and the 14-time champions just now barely snapping out of their early struggles.
Whether Magnolia's playoffs mode will again serve it in good stead or Columbian would continue to surprise would be known Wednesday in their crucial match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Dyip are gunning for a second straight win and fifth in 10 games overall that should at least keep them at seven-running spot and further stoke their claim for one of the eight quarterfinals berths following the 11-game elims.
The Hotshots are also looking for a follow-up to a big win, improve to a 3-4 slate and continue their long-awaited rise from the cellar.
Obviously, a loss for either team would be a big blow.
"It's another playoff game for us. We have considered every game na do or die na sa amin because of our situation," said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, whose side is still one full game behind eighth-running Meralco.
"But I think iyung mga players ko naman they embraced iyung challenges, eh. We're starting to get our rhythm and our defensive mindset," added last season's Coach of the Year.
"Iyung game tomorrow is all about the will to survive, kasi both teams need that game para iyung playoff chances mas lumaki."
The Hotshots displayed that determination to the fullest in dealing their last Governors Cup finals victim, Alaska, a 103-86 beatdown last Saturday.
Columbian was just as impressive, squeaking past former unbeaten leader Rain or Shine 85-82 last Wednesday.
For Dyip coach Johnedel Cardel, it should all be about his charges not letting up on their tenacity all game long.
"Ang sabi ko nga, every quarter we have to fight, play defense," said Cardel after the game against the Elasto Painters.
"Especially in the fourth quarter, to give the team a chance to win."
A big part of Columbian's game is anchored on its backcourt of CJ Perez, Rashawn McCarthy, JP Calvo and Reden Celda but that should be canceled by Magnolia's own battle-tested and more seasoned guards in Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Jio Jalalon and Justin Melton.
What should give the Hotshots the edge is their frontline, led by Ian Sangalang, who is coming off a sterling all-around performance of 24 points, 14 rebounds and six assists against Alaska. (NC)