It's the grand slam hopefuls against the defending conference champs, only this time, SMB is in a precarious position as the sixth seed. Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, Ginebra just needs a victory tonight to deny the Beermen of a second historic grand slam.
BGSM coach Tim Cone told SPIN.ph, "(We'll give) no quarters. We're not going to hold back...Ginebra wants to beat nobody more than San Miguel, and San Miguel wants to beats nobody more than Ginebra."
To do that, the legendary basketball tactician has to make the necessary adjustment against Leo Austria's wards, particularly in these individual matchups:
Chris Ross vs Scottie Thompson
Advantage: SMB (1-0)
Both guards don't need to shoot to be effective, and have a nose for the ball. Ross gets the nod for his scoring (averaged 14.4 points last five games) and experience (he's been in the league six years earlier), and he was the best player of the previous conference.
Alex Cabagnot vs LA Tenorio
Advantage: Ginebra (1-1)
Two players who made a name for themselves as elite playmakers and clutch performers. His defense (1.6 spg) and three-point shooting (46%) give Tenorio the slight edge, but you can never count out an MVP candidate (second in the race).
Marcio Lassiter vs Sol Mercado
Advantage: SMB (2-1)
The Beermen uses three guards in the opening tip, so don't be suprised if Cone does the same with his own backcourt trio. Mercado loses this round due to limited playing time as a reserve, not to mention Lassiter's ability to wax hot from deep.
June Mar Fajardo vs Greg Slaughter
Advantage: SMB (3-1)
Injuries have nagged The Kraken and Gregzilla in the past, only Fajardo was able to experience a quicker recovery (23.6 pts, 14.2 reb last 5 games). The big man, who is on his way to a record fourth straight Most Valuable Player award (18.5 ppg 10.6 rpg 2 bpg), is a no-brainer.
Terrence Watson vs Justin Brownlee
Advantage: Ginebra (3-2)
There's a reason why Brownlee is still Ginebra's import, while Watson is already SMB's third (after Wendell McKiness and Terik Bridgeman). The hero of last year's title run (22.6 ppg 11.6 4.9 apg) has the upper hand in terms of chemistry with two conferences under his belt.
Arwind Santos vs Japeth Aguilar/Joe Devance
Advantage: SMB (4-2)
BGSM's starting forwards will try use their size to assert themselves in the frontcourt, and Santos will just draw them beyond the arc (41%). The 36-year-old (17.5 ppg 6.45 rpg 1.8 bpg) is relatively smarter than Aguilar and faster than Devance.
Advantage: Ginebra (4-3)
Despite losing Kevin Ferrer (get well soon) and bannering a couple of old heads, the Barangay backups are better simply because they get more burn. Still, it won't be enough to overcome San Miguel's local dominance and prevent them from extending the series.