Streaking Hotshots not taking slumping Bossing lightly

Magnolia Hotshots' Mark Barroca. –PBA IMAGES

Magnolia Hotshots’ Mark Barroca. –PBA IMAGES

Magnolia stakes its immaculate PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) Commissioner’s Cup record against a hapless Blackwater side on Wednesday night, and Chito Victolero is the first to say that the battle won’t be a cakewalk for his charges.

“The way they have been playing, they could’ve been 4-2, or 3-3 [win-loss, in the standings]. Their previous losses have been close. Just look at how they fared against Ginebra. For most of that game, they were in control,” the coach of the league-leading Hotshots told the Inquirer on Tuesday.

“They’re probably just having problems with their execution towards the end of the game,” he added.

Magnolia has been on a tear, winning five straight—16 all in all, counting their spotless run during the off-season exhibition caravan. The Hotshots have also defeated perennial playoff contender TNT and even Barangay Ginebra, this tournament’s defending champions.

Yet, all that hardly convinces Victolero ahead of the 8 p.m. clash at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

Blackwater is sitting on a 1-5 record and has dropped its last five outings. But as the 2018 Governors’ Cup champion coach suggested, its recent string of losses could pass off as meltdowns.

The Bossing lost only by three points against the Gin Kings in a duel they controlled for most of the game. The same scenario played out in the clash with fellow cellar-dweller Rain or Shine. Against early leader Phoenix, the cosmetics franchise sputtered, missing out on a comeback.

“That team is dangerous and they command respect,” said Victolero, who will try to commandeer his side to a sweep of the first half of the eliminations as forward Calvin Abueva continues to work on his fitness toward a return set either before Christmas Day or on Jan. 6 against Meralco.

“We’ll have to play hard basketball for 48 (minutes)—like how we did against NLEX,” he added, referring to the blowout win where the Hotshots, whose defense is the stingiest in the conference, held the Road Warriors to just 72 points.

Meanwhile, NorthPort (3-2) will try to get another streak going when it battles winless Converge in the curtain raiser scheduled for 4 p.m. INQ

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