THERE is no going around it for San Miguel Beer and Meralco when they collide Wednesday in the first of two crucial matches ending the PBA Commissioner's Cup eliminations at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"For us, talagang must-win kami," said SMB coach Leo Austria on the eve of the match.
"Every game namin since three games ago, talagang treatment namin do-or-die na lahat iyan (games), eh," added Austria. "So far, nag-wo-work. Sana bukas din."
The Bolts also have their work cut out for them in the simplest of terms. They need to win to finish the elims with a 4-7 slate to tie Alaska and Phoenix Pulse for the eighth and last spot in the quarterfinals.
Such a scenario would drop the Fuel Masters to 10th due to a lower quotient while the Aces and Bolts square off in a knockout game with the winner making it as the last quarterfinals qualifier.
A loss by Meralco would drop it to 11th and leave Alaska and Phoenix playing off for the No. 8 ranking.
Austria's team has a far loftier goal.
The Beermen need to emerge victorious to assure themselves of landing a 6-5 record and at least sixth spot. They would even go a rung higher should 9-1 TNT prevail over 5-5 Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok later in the evening.
Teams which finished third to sixth engage in best-of-three duels pitting No. 3 versus No. 6 and No. 4 against No. 5.
A loss, however, would drop SMB to sixth and it would even be relegated to seventh if TNT wins over Magnolia. The seventh and eighth placers are saddled with twice-to-win handicaps in the next round against the top two teams.
That lowly placing is one Austria desperately wants to avoid. "Kapag nag-No. 7 ka, natsambahan ka wala ka ng chance bumawi, eh," he pointed out.
"Kailangan talagang manalo against Meralco para nasa best-of-three kami."
On the surface, SMB has the advantage due to its three-game winning streak while Meralco is on a three-game slide.
Austria would have none of that, stressing they cannot afford to let their roll go to waste.
"Kung titingnan mo inilalaro namin, kaya naming manalo. Ang concern ko lang dito, baka mag-relax dahil alam nila (Beermen) pasok na kami dahil sa three wins namin. Iyun ang iniiwasan ko, baka isipin ng mga players dahil win or lose nasa quarterfinals na," offered Austria.
"Ang sama nito, kapag ganu'n, wala sa kamay namin kapalaran namin. Kapag natalo kami, kailangan manalo ng Magnolia para mag-No. 7 kami," Austria also said.
"Although kahit sino makalaban namin, p'wede kaming manalo. Pero mas maganda na manalo kami, para assured kami sa best-of-three."(NC)