The Magnolia Hotshots are favored to take care of business this Friday against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, but that’s going to be easier said than done. The Fuel Masters will come into this game still on a high from their heart-stopping victory last Sunday to clinch a quarterfinals berth.
Catch this game live on Friday, March 18at 6 pm, Manila time.
The Magnolia Hotshots (9-2)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Mark Barocca
- SG: Paul Lee
- SF: Calvin Abueva
- PF: Ian Sangalang
- C: Mike Harris
Paul Lee and the Magnolia Hotshots barely had any problems in the elimination phase of the 2022 Governors’ Cup. Sure, there had been challenges for the Hotshots in getting to nine wins, but they left little doubt in showing why Magnolia is the best team in this conference entering the playoffs. The Hotshots finished the elimination round second in scoring with 105.6 points per game and fourth in scoring defense with just 93.7 points allowed per contest. They also own the best offensive rating with 117.6 points per 100 possessions.
Center to the success of the Hotshots is their import, Mike Harris. Unlike most PBA reinforcements, Harris isn’t ball-dominant. He is leading Magnolia with an average of 29.6 points on 21.6 field-goal attempts per game, but a ton of his touches come from designed plays and putbacks. His style of play allows Magnolia’s locals to shine. Harris had 20 points in Magnolia’s 103-83 win over the Fuel Masters last February, while three other locals had at least 13 points. Speaking of which, the Hotshots’ local crew will even be getting a big shot in the arm with Calvin Abueva returning after a long absence due to injury.
The Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters (6-6)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: RJ Jazul
- SG: Matthew Wright
- SF: Sean Manganti
- PF: Jason Perkins
- C: Du’Vaughn Maxwell
Phoenix is headed to the playoffs after all. The Fuel Masters went just 1-3 straight up to end the elimination round, but defeated the NorthPort Batang Pier last Sunday, 101-98, in a one-game playoff for the last spot in the quarterfinals. It was a gutsy win for Phoenix, as Matthew Wright took just eight shots and finished with just 11 points. In the first meeting with Magnolia, though, Wright had 18 points on 7/12 shooting. If the Fuel Masters are to beat the Hotshots, they need others to step up the way they did in the NorthPort game.
RR Garcia went off for 19 points against the Batang Pier, while Jason Perkins and RJ Jazul had 17 and 11 points, respectively. The Fuel Masters also have a different import than the one that played for them in the initial showdown with the Hotshots. Du’Vaughn Maxwell is fitting in nicely in Phoenix and had just scored 31 points to go with 13 rebounds and three steals in 48 minutes of action versus the Batang Pier. Phoenix’s active hands on defense could be a big factor for the Fuel Masters as they aim to stymie Magnolia’s attacks. The Fuel Masters are No. 2 overall this conference with a 9.2 steals percentage.
Spread: Phoenix showed plenty of heart in the win over NorthPort, but that intangible quality can only go so far against an also-hungry Magnolia squad that has the advantage in almost every position over the Fuel Masters. Look for the Hotshots to win and cover (-7).
Over/Under: Phoenix loves to play fast, but Magnolia will not allow the Fuel Masters to get into their rhythm. Taking the Under (197.5) here.