Whoever thinks that reigning back-to-back PBA Philippine Cup champions San Miguel Beermen will be dethroned by the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel must be dreaming. Before riled members of the rabid Ginebra mob take out their torches, pitchforks, and coins, and hunt me down, listen to what I have to say first.
The Gin Kings may have shown heart and grit against the Star Hotshots in their Manila Clasico semifinal series, but that cannot be the case when they face the Beermen in the Finals.
In previous articles, I pointed out that whenever the game turns ugly, the team with the never-say-die attitude takes advantage. And that was the theme of the Ginebra-Star semis: a ton of missed shots and miscues, which doomed the Hotshots.
But this is San Miguel we're talking about, a team that prides itself on flawless execution and scoring brilliance, anchored by June Mar Fajardo's nearly unstoppable post play, and the superb marksmanship of its backcourt trio (Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, and Chris Ross). The Gin Kings can't expect the Beermen to shoot blanks like the Hotshots did for majority of their matchup, especially with an oft-shaky offense themselves.
Speaking of Fajardo, tell me one player from Ginebra—even the league—who can shadow 'The Kraken.' Judging from the hell brought upon by Marc Pingris to Japeth Aguilar, Jervy Cruz, Dave Marcelo, and a limping Joe Devance, the Barangay's frontline will be basically in a whole lot of trouble against a much bigger and stronger dude. I imagine Tim Cone praying for the miracle of a healthy Greg Slaughter before Friday...
I may have also criticized sideline tactician Leo Austria for burning out his starting unit with heavy minutes, but then I realized that the extended burn gives them an edge over opponents in terms of on-court cohesion. The same dominant core has been with San Miguel during their last two All-Filipino titles, while the Ginebra lineup has been mired by inconsistency due to injuries and personnel changes before hitting its stride last conference.
Lastly, the Gin Kings seemed to have embraced its NSD identity, evident from the improved play with their backs against the wall. This may be the part where the underdogs have the upper hand, if they manage to push the Beermen to the brink. And because almost everyone are predicting a Game 7 between the two sister teams, the Barangay might just actually get this one when the series goes down the wire.
Which team mounted the greatest comeback in recent PBA memory, and made the opposing squad a bigger joke than the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors? Which was the first team in professional basketball history to overcome a 0-3 deficit and defend its title in the last Philippine Cup? That's why I call SMB in six, only because the best local sports team has the tendency to slack off, like they did against the more formidable TNT KaTropa.
Now, come at me with those coins!