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Dec 17, 2014
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The cast is complete. Not for yet another Shake, Rattle and Roll movie (pang-168 na ba?), but for the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup. After a frenetic elimination round and quarterfinals, it’s only fitting that the top four seeds are left to slug it out for the most coveted PBA diadem. Even the players admit: There’s nothing like taking home the Philippine Cup/All-Filipino crown. It’s like winning the mandatory dance contest in your company’s Christmas party.

Okay, maybe not.

It will be the proverbial battle of offense versus defense between San Miguel and Talk ‘N Text, two of the winningest franchises in the league. On the other hand, Rain or Shine versus Alaska will be a match-up of two squads out to prove that the PBA isn’t just about the powerhouse, star-studded squads. 

The best-of-seven semifinals will kick off tomorrow, December 18, between Rain or Shine and Alaska at the MOA Arena. So before you cheer your esophagus out for your favorite team and unapologetically bash your rival fans on Facebook and message boards, here’s a preview of the PBA’s version of the Final Four. ‘Tis the season to be feisty!


SERIES 1:   SAN MIGUEL BEERMEN (1) VS. TALK ‘N TEXT (3)

pba semis preview

 Elimination round record:

  • San Miguel: 9-2
  • Talk ‘n Text: 8-3

Elimination round meeting:

  • Talk ‘n Text def. San Miguel: 107-101
  • Jayson Castro: 19 Pts, 3 Rebs, 12 Asts

Elimination round stats:

pba semis preview 

Key match-ups

- June Mar Fajardo (SMB): 18.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.2 BPG
- Ranidel de Ocampo (TNT): 11.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.6 APG

- Arwind Santos (SMB): 15.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.5 BPG
- Jay Washington (TNT): 10.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG

- Alex Cabagnot (SMB): 15.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.0 APG
- Jayson Castro (TNT): 15.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.6 APG

 

Why San Miguel will (hic) toast to (hic) victory:

pba semis previewImage via Spin.ph

When Leo Austria was named head coach of the Beermen (their fourth in two years), he vowed to change the culture of the team. He knew they can’t win by talent alone. They also need to get down and dirty. So far, Austria has kept his promise (maybe his '70s bigote has secret powers).

pba semis previewImage via Spin.ph

He has transformed the Beermen into a blue-collar unit that plays suffocating, unforgiving defense. They’re the top defensive team this conference, only allowing 77.8 PPG on 38.2-percent FG shooting—both league bests. They have hard-nosed guards in Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, and Ronald Tubid and athletic wingmen in Arwind Santos and Chris Lutz. All of them can turn it up on the defensive end if needed. Oh, they also have The Kraken clogging the lane like a killer bus on EDSA.

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Another significant change in the Beermen is their improved chemistry. It really looks like the players genuinely like playing with each other. As a result, they took the top spot at the end of the elimination round. That’s why the surprise (unnecessary, really) return of Alex Cabagnot will be crucial. Will he disrupt the flow or be the consummate teammate? But knowing him, it will be more of the latter. His veteran smarts and steadiness in the clutch will make San Miguel even more formidable.

Four feeling-Quinito Henson factors for SMB:

1. Pace Fajardo’s minutes
2. Santos + Cabagnot = BFFs
3. Stick to your roles
4. Don’t play "Bagyo" in the locker room

Pampagana Instagram post for SMB fans:

pba semis previewWho said there’s a cold war between these two?


Why Talk ‘N Text will go UNLIWIN:

pba semis previewImage via Spin.ph

Even with the change in the brain trust, TNT has remained as the league’s most potent offensive unit. New head coach Jong Uichico felt the system didn’t need to be overhauled—and he’s right. As they say, why fix it when it ain’t broke? Besides, the Tropang Texters have repeatedly reaped success with their overpowering offense.

pba semis previewImage via Spin.ph

Talk ‘n Text led the league in scoring in the elimination round with 96.5 PPG on 42.7-percent FG shooting. Nine players average at least seven points per outing! Opponents have migraines figuring out who to shut down. One game, it would be The Blur doing damage. The next, it would be RDO, then Jay-Wash. Even rookies Kevin Alas and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser (longest surname in the PBA today?) can light it up. When the Tropang Texters aren’t attacking on the break, they can also make it rain from long distance. They are tops in the league in three-pointers with 10.2 per game on 38.8-percent sniping.

The downside to their high-fueled offense is that they also allow opponents to score in bunches. They yield 89.1 points per outing, second worst in the league. But then again, if their offense is clicking on all cylinders, defense won’t be much of a worry.

Four feeling-Quinito Henson factors for TNT:

1. Consistent FG shooting
2. Active defensive rotation
3. Healthy and complete lineup
4. Gawing assistant coach si muse Megan Young  

Pampagana Instagram post for TNT fans:

pba semis previewBagay ba maging barker si Castro?


SERIES 2:   RAIN OR SHINE ELASTO PAINTERS (2) VS. ALASKA ACES (4)

pba semis preview

Elimination round record:

  • Rain or Shine: 9-2
  • Alaska: 8-3

Elimination round meeting:

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  • Rain or Shine def. Alaska: 98-95
  • Paul Lee: 19 Pts, 10 Rebs, 5 Asts

Elimination round stats:

pba semis previewKey match-ups:

- Paul Lee (ROS): 15.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.5 APG
- JVee Casio (ALA): 9.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG

- Jeff Chan (ROS): 12.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.6 APG
- Calvin Abueva (ALA): 17.4 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 3.3 APG

- Beau Belga (ROS): 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.7 APG
- Vic Manuel (ALA): 10.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.0 APG

 

Why Rain or Shine will "brocha by golly wow":

pba semis previewImage via Spin.ph

Because Yeng Guiao will cancel Christmas if they don’t.

Seriously though, the Elasto Painters have been a model of consistency these past few years. This season isn’t any different. The players know their system like the back of their sweaty hands. They’re the hottest team in the league right now with seven straight wins. If you’re still wondering how the likes of Jonathan Uyloan, Jericho Cruz, and Jireh Ibañes play like top-tier guys, then you don’t know ROS basketball.

pba semis previewImage via Spin.ph

The Elasto Painters will capitalize on their speed, quickness, and agility. They run their opponents to the ground, leading the league in fastbreak points with 14.7 per game. Their easy buckets are the result of their in-your-face, tenacious defense as well (watching them play man-to-man D is a treat). They force 15.8 errors per outing, which leads to 16.7 turnover points—tops in the league. If their run-and-gun game isn’t working, they’ll inject pain from beyond the arc, as they average a league second-best 8.7 treys per game.

Added motivation for Rain or Shine is giving Guiao his first ever All-Filipino crown. The fiery drillmaster is due for one and his wards want nothing else but to give him the trophy as a Christmas gift. They’ve come up short the last two tries. They hope the third time will be the charm.

Four feeling-Quinito Henson tips for ROS:

1. Attack at every opportunity
2. Maintain high energy
3. Mental focus (no silly altercations)
4. Siguraduhing maraming kanin sa practice

Pampagana Instagram post for ROS fans:

Malapit na malapit na! #angaspaullee @garleydudes @joventan8 @magoomarjon

A video posted by Paul Lee (@lethalweapon03) on


Hindi lang ikaw Arwind ang bagong recording artist!


Why wala pa ring tatalo sa Alaska:

pba semis previewImage via Spin.ph

Well, actually, the Aces already have three losses, but you get our point. They were the team to beat in the early goings of the Philippine Cup, racking up six straight wins in convincing fashions. But despite losing their last two outings in the elimination round, it looks like they’re back in peak form after dismantling Meralco (watch out for your electric bill, Fred Uytengsu).

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pba semis previewImage via Spin.ph

Expect Abueva and Casio to play their hearts out like they always do in crucial battles. The Beast will scratch and claw for every rebound, loose ball, and wayward elbow, while G-Shock won’t be afraid to hit cold-blooded baskets. They also have a slew of veterans in Dondon Hontiveros, Sonny Thoss, Cyrus Baguio, Tony dela Cruz, and Eric Menk, who are definitely used to pressure.

Defense will be key for the Aces as well. They’re the second stingiest team this conference with only 80.1 points allowed per outing, while forcing 16.7 miscues, also second best in the league. On paper, it seems Alaska doesn’t belong in the semifinals compared to the other three super-stacked squads. But as the team’s battle-cry says, it’s “We, not me.” Head coach Alex Compton is a terrific motivator and he surely has aces up his sleeve. (Sorry for the lame pun. That was obviously milking it. Okay, last na ‘yun.)

Four feeling-Quinito Henson factors for Alaska:

1. Hit three-point shots
2. Consistent bench support
3. Start strong
4. Uminom ng gatas bago matulog (duh!)

Pampagana Instagram post for Alaska fans:

pba semis previewMove over, One Direction!


And finally...

FHM’s ilista-sa-tubig prediction: San Miguel will defeat Talk ‘n Text in six games, while Rain or Shine will oust Alaska in five (with Guiao getting two technical fouls in the series). Don’t trust us with your million-peso bets though.

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