MANILA, Philippines -- With just four games left in their elimination round schedule, the Magnolia Hotshots are already in playoff mode as they eye a spot in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals.
The Hotshots claimed just their third win against four losses on Wednesday night after an impressive 102-92 victory over league-leading TNT Tropang Giga. Their record put them in eighth place in the league standings, just half a game ahead of NLEX (3-5).
For head coach Chito Victolero, their remaining games are must-win affairs if they hope to get back to the playoffs of the All-Filipino Conference.
"Nasa playoff mode na kami eh. And every game is a do-or-die for us," said Victolero.
The Hotshots experienced some painful losses earlier in the conference, including a 109-104 overtime loss to Meralco and a stunning 91-84 collapse against Phoenix Super LPG where they squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
But a much-needed 102-92 triumph over archrival Barangay Ginebra breathed life back into Magnolia's campaign. After taking down another contender in TNT, momentum is on the Hotshots' side heading into their closing stretch.
"Nasa amin 'yung pressure because may mga nagawa kami noong una na hindi namin inaasahan," said Victolero. "And right now, I think maganda naman 'yung peak ng team. At least andoon kami sa middle and we want to cherish kung ano man 'yung ma-experience namin dito sa bubble."
Three of the Hotshots' last four games are against struggling teams -- winless TerraFirma, NorthPort, and Blackwater. They also have a date against Rain or Shine, a team that is eyeing a Top 4 spot in the standings.
Victolero stressed that the subpar records of their upcoming foes should not give them any comfort.
"I mean, struggle din kami," he pointed out. "Hindi ka pwedeng mag-relax dito."
"Kahit anong team pwede kang matalo if you're not prepared hard. Pwede ka ring manalo, just like today, they are the No. 1 team but because we worked hard, we prepared hard, may chance kaming manalo at nanalo nga kami," he added.
"So it's not about 'yung record. It's all about our preparation."
Even as they enter games with a playoff mentality, the coach also stressed that they are taking things one day at a time, especially given the compressed schedule of the elimination round.
The Hotshots will return to action immediately on Thursday against TerraFirma, then play Rain or Shine and NorthPort in back-to-back days on November 7 and November 8. They wrap up their elims schedule against Blackwater on November 11.
"We stay on the present," said Victolero. "Kung ano lang 'yung kailangan naming gawin ngayon, 'yun lang muna kami naka-focus. And that's the mentality."