HAVING shown its resiliency under the most trying times the last time around, Phoenix has probably earned everybody’s respect, notably that of coach Tim Cone’s.
Last Wednesday, the Fuel Masters, playing minus four players, survived the dangerous three-point shooting spree by erstwhile co-leader NorthPort -- reason why they can no longer be taken for granted by any team in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
"We have a tough weekend ahead to prepare for, starting with Phoenix, then Alaska,” said Cone.
“We know Phoenix -- they are a physical and defensive-minded team and play with great tempo. They are always a tough matchup for us," added Cone.
The Gin Kings and the rejuvenated Fuel Masters collide today at 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, and Cone is particularly wary of the fact that the coaching staff is still in the process of fine-tuning the Gin Kings following the acquisition of Stanley Pringle.
"We're still in discovery mode as we continue to use practice to look at different combinations," stressed Cone.
The Gin Kings have won their last two outings to rev up their playoff bid in the tournament they won last season. The Gin Kings defeated San Miguel Beer, 110-107, last June 16, then routed NLEX, 100-85, in a road game in Batangas City last Sunday where Pringle scored 16 points.
The Gin Kings improved their win-loss slate to 4-3.
Still, it is the Fuel Masters’ 10-point victory over the hottest team in the league in Batang Pier which could really give them huge push in their encounter with the Gin Kings.
The Fuel Masters pulled off the dramatic win despite the continued absence of Calvin Abueva, and lately the absence of four more players (Rey Guevarra, L.A Revilla, Jaypee Mendoza and Mike Gamboa) due to injuries.
As for the Road Warriors, they are now hard-pressed to sweep their last three outings -- including against Rain or Shine which they will play in the first game today at 4:30 p.m. – for a possible entry into the playoff round.
The Road Warriors have been hogging the cellar with their 1-7 card, and considering their next two games are against the Beermen on July 5 and Fuel Masters on July 12, it looks like the Road Warriors’ bid is as good as finished.