Rakeem Christmas wasn't in a festive mood after his forgettable debut for Magnolia in the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup ended in a 98-83 loss to TNT on Wednesday.
The Hotshots' third reinforcement this conference was mostly a non-factor against the top-seeded KaTropa, scoring eight points on dismal 2-for-10 shooting but contributing 14 rebounds. He also had more turnovers (five) than assists (three) and finished with a -12 rating in 33 minutes.
"I'm not satisfied with that game at all," Christmas said. "It was my first game back in a while. Just have to get that out of the way and improve in the next game, get ready for the playoffs. Just gotta put that behind me and just move on."
It didn't help that he had to go up against Best Import front-runner Terrence Jones in his first game since the summer of last year, when he suited up for the Henan Roaring Elephants in China's National Basketball League. Jones flirted with a triple-double against the Hotshots by collecting 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
"This game was one of those games where I had to get my body going," Christmas admitted. "I haven't played in a while. Just gotta put this game behind me and just gotta get ready for the next one."
Coach Chito Victolero didn't seem too concerned after the game, saying that his team will be running the whole system in the next two days to accommodate Christmas and prepare for the fourth-seeded Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals.
"He has huge adjustments to make. It might be jetlag. He still needs to acclimatize himself into the system. It's good for all of us in the team to prepare and see what defense we're gonna use. We're also gonna run our offense in the practice and he'll also familiarize himself with the opponents. These two days are going to be great," Victolero said in Filipino.
Christmas, meanwhile, is just ready to put this dismal outing behind him. "It's crucial. Those two days before the game, the practices [are] where I'll be a lot. Just gotta put this game behind me, move on and just get ready for the next game."
Magnolia, after locking up the fifth seed by virtue of a San Miguel loss earlier, will enter its best-of-three showdown against the defending champions with a four-game losing streak from the eliminations. Momentum isn't on their side, but the team is optimistic that it can replicate its first round win against the Kings last Philippine Cup, where the Hotshots edged them in three games to advance to the semifinals.
"We'll just try to prepare hard and be positive this time," said Victolero. "But the good thing here is that we have a chance. It's an equal opportunity now with a best-of-three matchup, which is better than being at a twice-to-beat disadvantage at the seventh or eighth seed. It's the defending champions, but we like our chances."
"They told me they're a very good team so I'm gonna go back to the hotel, eat, watch some YouTube and film on them and just get ready," Christmas said.