Games Friday
Smart Araneta Coliseum
4 p.m. — Blackwater vs NorthPort
8 p.m. — Rain or Shine vs TNT

EVEN with a campaign marked by alternating streaks of two wins, two losses, three wins and two losses, NorthPort (5-4) is within range of its primary target — the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals.

So the best thing to do for coach Bonnie Tan and his youthful crew is to make the most of this opportunity and ensure their hassle-free Last-8 entry with the playoffs race about to get hotter than ever after the New Year’s Day festivities.

The Batang Pier can attain that with victory No. 6 in today’s resumption of play against also-ran Blackwater (1-8) at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Take care of business in the 4 p.m. gig and the Batang Pier can get rid of a possible complication in the bare knuckle fight for the three remaining quarters berths involving them, TNT (4-5), Rain or Shine (4-5), NLEX (3-7) and even Terrafirma (2-7).

Mr. Tan needs to draw the best from import Venky Jois, ace gunner Arvin Tolentino, former top pick Joshua Munzon and promising freshmen Fran Yu, Cade Flores and Brent Paraiso to get it done right away and avoid a “take-two” in a harsher, high-pressure environment against twice-to-beat-hunting Ginebra (6-3) on Sunday.

But in the Bossing they expect to find a tough customer. Though out of the running with still two games left, Jeff Cariaso’s team is bent on going out swinging and getting something to build on for the next conference.

Equally vital is the faceoff between Tropang Giga and the Elasto Painters at 8 p.m., where the winner moves to five Ws and a step closer to the “magic number” of six.

The Tropang Giga debut Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson in place of his younger brother Rondae, who suffered a neck injury in their East Asia Super League campaign last month. TNT, the Season 47 Governors’ Cup titlists, is out to pump life back into its bid after losing its last two outings, including a 78-86 Christmas Day setback to Ginebra with an all-Filipino lineup.

On the other side stand the Elasto Painters, currently the league’s hottest team.

Yeng Guiao’s team, led by the rebounding machine Tree Treadwell, has won its last four games and carries intense desire to continue its rise and salvage a quarters trip coming off a woeful 1-5 start. — Olmin Leyba