It was a match made in heaven by the basketball gods.
First-time reinforcements essentially doomed the semifinals for their respective teams, setting the stage for a grudge import rematch, and ultimately the latest chapter of the next great PBA rivalry between the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and the Meralco Bolts.
The two talent-laden squads find themselves in familiar territory after a classic six-game series exactly a year ago. As you may already know, Ginebra won its first title in eight years at the expense of Meralco's lone Finals appearance, courtesy of Justin Brownlee beating the buzzer with a three-point shot.
Following a few minor personnel changes, the bitter second-placers are raring to exact vengeance on the defending champions and its vaunted "sixth man." These factors will decide the 2017 PBA Finals Governors' Cup:
Close but not quite
Last time, the numbers in each statistical category were almost identical, other than the slight discrepancies in assists (Meralco in Games 1 and 4, Ginebra in Game 5) and offensive rebounds (Ginebra in Game 3). The biggest difference, though, turned out to be the free throws, which pretty clued fans in on what the possible outcome would be.
Game 3: Meralco 21/27 FT (won)
Game 4: Ginebra 17/24 FT (won)
Game 5: Meralco 13/20 FT
It will boil down to how good players can draw fouls. Teams will have to defend Durham (32/45) and Tenorio (15/20) better after the two had the most trips to the charity stripe for the Bolts and the Barangay, respectively.
Size vs speed
One look at Ginebra and Meralco's lineups show their contrasting edge in the frontcourt and backcourt. The Barangay's bigs must assert themselves in the paint, while the Bolts wings should run circles around their foes. More importanly, the play of Ginebra's three-headed guard monster (Tenorio, Sottie Thompson and Sol Mercado) and Meralco's stretch veterans (De Ocampo and Reynel Hugnatan) will spell the difference.
Key additions: (Ginebra) Greg Slaughter (Meralco) Jared Dillinger, Ranidel de Ocampo, Mike Tolomia, Garvo Lanete
Key losses: (Ginebra) Chris Ellis, Dave Marcelo (Meralco) Jimmy Alapag, Rabeh Al-Hussaini
Both squads have players returning from injuries (Slaughter, Dillinger), none more important than Slaughter who makes Ginebra even bigger. Still, Meralco has the advantage with its acquisition of De Ocampo and the fact that it didn't really lose Alapag, who can still provide leadership from the sidelines as assistant coach.
Allen Durhan: 27.8 ppg 19.4 rpg 7.1 apg
Justin Brownlee: 22.6 ppg 11.6 rpg 4.9 apg
Durham must be trippin' if he doesn't want to meet his Finals tormentor anew. Once again the frontrunner for the Best Import Award, the Meralco reinforcement would love nothing more than sweet revenge on Brownlee, who rendered his top individual honor void by hitting the game-winner in his face. Expect Ginebra's hero, who exploded for 46 points during the series clincher against the TNT KaTropa, to be more than ready.