(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
SMB, the defending champions hold a twice-to-beat advantage.
One thing is certain for the Talk N Text KaTropa: they cannot afford to celebrate now even after a successful demolition job against the Phoenix Fuel Masters in a playoff match for the final spot in the quarterfinals.
Sure, they're moving on into the quarterfinals as the eighth-seeded team. But the problem is, the KaTropa will be playing against the reigning Philippine Cup champions, the San Miguel Beermen and not only that. The Beermen will have a twice-to-beat advantage which they earned after finishing the elimination round as the top-seeded team- something that everyone expected from the best all-local team in the league.
If we are to look back at the match-up between these two squads during the elimination round, one of the reasons why Nash Racela's boys lost against San Miguel was the fact that Jayson Castro's presence was hardly felt on the floor after the Beermen limited Castro to only 9 points on 3 for 16 field goal shooting. On the other hand, 4 of the 5 starters of Leo Austria scored in double figures led by June Mar Fajardo who had 20 points.
What will allow TNT to force a winner-take-all match?
First and foremost, the KaTropa will need Jayson Castro's scoring leadership before anything else. Sure, he had 8 rebounds and 8 assists in their previous encounter against the Beermen but this is the quarterfinals, folks. Another bad scoring output by the Blur and their conference is done.
Second, the rest of the KaTropa will need to step up on both ends of the court and must be able to contain June Mar Fajardo in the post. We all know that there's no possible way to defend Fajardo one-on-one but sending double teams or even triple teams on Fajardo will leave the slashers and shooters of San Miguel unguarded. It's basically a game of "choose your poison".
Fortunately, Troy Rosario is back after missing the latter part of the elimination after a horrible fall. And, if Kelly Williams can continue his surging improvement, the KaTropa MIGHT have a chance at taking down the San Miguel Beermen and force a sudden death match. But beating the Beermen in two straight games? That's another story.
If anything, the quarterfinals series between the KaTropa and the Beermen will be an exciting match-up considering the fact that both squads have faced each other in the playoffs on multiple occasions already so basically, it's another rivalry series. Who will win? Prediction: San Miguel will wrap it up in the opener.