Two of the hottest teams in the PBA right now will square off today, as the Phoenix Fuel Masters look to send the Magnolia Hotshots packing with a win.
Phoenix has the twice-to-beat advantage in this quarterfinals matchup, but will the Hotshots force another game?
Catch this game live on November 14 at 6:45 pm, Manila time.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters (8-3)
The Fuel Masters took care of business in their last game, closing out their regular-season schedule with a 90-88 win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Jason Perkins led the way for Phoenix, as he finished with a game-high 30 points to go with eight rebounds in 46 minutes of action.
Perkins was also instrumental in the Fuel Masters’ 91-84 come-from-behind win over Magnolia on October 23. He had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Matthew Wright paced the Fuel Masters with 23 points.
The Phoenix team that Magnolia will face this Saturday is better than the one that outscored the Hotshots, 31-13, in the final quarter in the previous meeting, and that’s because of one player: Calvin Abueva.
The former King Stag was still not around when the Fuel Masters stunned Magnolia, and his presence on the floor this weekend should create all sorts of problems for the Hotshots. In six games since getting activated, Abueva has averaged 13.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.3 steals.
Phoenix has won four of their last six meetings with Magnolia, dating back to 2018.
The Magnolia Hotshots (7-4)
Sure, the Fuel Masters are the higher seed in this matchup, but it’s Magnolia who are entering the playoffs as the hottest team in the league. After the Hotshots defeated the Blackwater Elite last Wednesday to the tune of a 95-80 score, Magnolia stretched their unbeaten streak to six games.
The loss to Phoenix was the Hotshots’ last before their current undefeated run. But the outcome of that game would have likely been different if Paul Lee shot the ball as well as he’s been doing of late. Lee scored just 10 points in the Phoenix game on 3-of-8 shooting from the field. Since then, Lee has turned on the boosters and averaged 21.0 points on 51.3 percent shooting in six games. Lee must have this rematch against Phoenix circled on his calendar, as he looks to carry Magnolia in this do-or-die game for the Hotshots.
But it’s not just Lee, whom the Fuel Masters will have to worry about, as big man Ian Sangalang is even more efficient on offense than his former UE Red Warrior teammate over the same stretch in which he put up 16.5 points on 52.5 FG%.
The Fuel Masters have simply become a scarier team on both ends of the floor with Abueva wreaking havoc offensively and defensively.
His return is boosting Phoenix’s attack that is second in this conference with 100.5 points per game and tops with 25.3 assists per contest. Abueva outplays his fellow Pinatubo Trio member, Ian Sangalang, and helps Phoenix score a 103-98 win.