(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
Like it or not, beating the defending champions in a 7-game series is difficult but not impossible
The last time these two squads faced each other in the playoffs, it was during the quarterfinals of last season's Governors' Cup. That quarterfinal match-up featured a Grand Slam-seeking San Miguel Beermen and the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings who were aiming for a back-to-back Governors' Cup championship. That match-up was done in one game after Ginebra, holding a twice-to-beat edge, held off the Beermen who could do nothing against the seemingly unstoppable frontline line-up featuring Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and, Justin Brownlee.
The Beermen and the Gin Kings are about to start another chapter of the SMB-Ginebra rivalry in the playoffs and this time around, no imports. No twice-to-beat advantage. Just a best-of-7 series. It's a race to 4 wins.
Question: Does Ginebra have a chance at taking down the Beermen?
There are two ways to answer that question:
- Yes. The Gin Kings beat the Beermen during the elimination phase of the Philippine Cup and they did it without Greg Slaughter and Joe Devance. One of the keys in that game was that the defense of Ginebra was able to contain the outburst of June Mar Fajardo, especially in the second half. Fajardo led all scorers with 33 points but faltered in the second half due to the defensive intensity that was shown by Ginebra defenders, primarily Raymond Aguilar who scored 16 points. LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar each had 23 points for the 100-96 victory over the league-leading Beermen.
- Realistically speaking, Ginebra still has a chance at taking down the champs in a 7-game series provided that the Gin Kings mess up on both ends of the court. It's going to be a long series for Ginebra especially the mere fact that Greg Slaughter is likely to miss the series opener tonight. Joe Devance is not yet 100% back in his old form while Japeth Aguilar is said to be playing with an injury. The key for Ginebra in this particular series is the defensive adjustments that Coach Tim Cone will employ especially against the Kraken, June Mar Fajardo.
One way or another, fans will be treated to another exciting semifinal series between two powerhouse teams in the PBA. It's June Mar Fajardo versus Greg Slaughter and/or Japeth Aguilar. LA Tenorio versus Alex Cabagnot. Chris Ross versus Scottie Thompson. Arwind Santos versus Marcio Lassiter. Frankly, both teams are perfectly matched. It all boils down to who will be the first one to lose consistency.