Magnolia coach Chito Victolero isn't expecting any blowout win at all when the Hotshots collide with 2018 Governors' Cup revelation Blackwater Elite at the start of the quarterfinal round on Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
When the pairings were finally decided at the close of the elimination round on Sunday, PBA fans picked Magnolia as the overwhelming favorite to bowl over Blackwater.
Can't blame the basketball fans considering that Magnolia handed Blackwater a sound 133-99 beating during their only meeting in the eliminations last month.
But for Victolero, playoff basketball is totally different.
"I reminded my players in practice that this is the same Blackwater team that beat San Miguel and Ginebra, both powerhouse teams. So for us, we need to enter the game with the proper mindset, take it with a do-or-die approach and we definitely need to respect this team," Victolero said, heading to their 4:30 P.M. match.
Magnolia enters the playoff stage as the fourth seed. And just like the top three teams Ginebra, Phoenix and Alaska, Magnolia will only need to win once to advance to the semifinals.
The Elite only had one day to prepare for the Hotshots.
Blackwater is coming off a painful 97-91 loss to Phoenix in the battle for the last twice-to-beat advantage Sunday night. The defeat dropped the four-year-old PBA franchise to fifth seed, thus the need to win twice over Magnolia to make it to a first-ever semifinal appearance.
Victolero has challenged former PBA Best Import Romeo Travis to elevate the level of his game in the playoffs, hoping the former Akron standout could duplicate his success in the French League last June.
"I've talked to Romeo and I told him that we got him basically because of the experience he's had and the success he's had playing internationally. Remember, he's a veteran import and won a championship in Europe before coming over here," Victolero said.
Before his second PBA stint this conference, the left-handed Romeo was named the Finals MVP of the French League after leading Le Mans to the championship.
The 33-year-old Magnolia import is averaging 22.73 points, 15.09 rebounds and 4.36 assists.
As for Blackwater coach Bong Ramos, he is keeping a positive view on things despite blowing their chances to get a twice-to-beat advantage last Sunday.
"I still believe we have a fighting chance and for us, the most important thing now is our next game," Ramos said.
Still, the Elite would up with a 7-4 record for their best conference finish in the elims.
And while the odds are stacked up against them, Blackwater hopes to draw inspiration from its playoff performance last season when it pushed a then top seed Meralco to a knockout match in the quarterfinals.
As usual, do-it-all import Henry Walker will again be at the forefront of the Elite's semifinal drive.
The former New York Knick and Miami Heat wingman averages 25.27 points, 13.27 rebounds and 5.82 assists per game. But more than just his scoring, the 6-foot-4 Walker's leadership will be vital.
"It's a do-or-die game for us so we simply need to give our all. We know it's going to be a tough game for us," said Blackwater forward Mac Belo.
Aside from Walker, expected to provide support are locals John Paul Erram, Mike DiGregorio, Paul Zamar and John Nard Pinto.