By JONAS TERRADO
Games Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
4:30 p.m. – NLEX vs Alaska
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Ginebra
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Rain or Shine are bracing for another drawn-out struggle following Friday’s triple-overtime encounter as they start their best-of-three quarterfinal series tonight in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
A war of attrition awaits both teams in the 7 p.m. match, three nights after a series of missed shots and turnovers marred Ginebra’s 100-92 win over Rain or Shine at the Smart Araneta Coliseum – the 12th triple-overtime game in PBA history.
“If the series is anything like our last game, then it’s going to be a heckuva series,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, whose team claimed a quarterfinals berth and a date with Rain or Shine after that marathon contest.
“They’ve been through the wars and know how to win in a series. We’ll have to earn anything we get,” he added.
The Ginebra-Rain or Shine match, a battle between the fourth and fifth seeds with similar 6-5 records, comes after the 4:30 p.m. opener between Alaska and NLEX, marking the formal start of the second stage of the PBA’s preeminent tournament.
Alaska, ranked third at 7-4, and NLEX, which went sixth at 6-5, are also primed for an intense battle like in their lone elims battle that saw the latter nearly squandering a gigantic lead before escaping with a 96-89 victory.
Ginebra will likely to play minus 7-foot center Greg Slaughter, who sat out Friday’s game due to sprained ankle. But Japeth Aguilar is expected to once again suit up after dealing with back spasms in posting 30 points and 17 rebounds against Rain or Shine.
LA Tenorio, who played 56 minutes, Scottie Thompson and Jervy Cruz are also tasked to play big roles in Ginebra’s quest to repeat over a Rain or Shine squad that made the quarters despite an up-and-down campaign.
Beau Belga, Raymond Almazan, Maverick Ahanmisi and Gabe Norwood are eager to bounce back after their stirring performances went to waste against Ginebra.
Chris Tiu, who missed the final three games of the eliminations, is likely to return after dealing with an injured hamstring. James Yap, however, was ruled out for the remainder of the conference with a calf injury.
Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia is hoping his team has the fresher legs going into the series, saying: “Pareho lang na pagod but we used more players. That’s just one advantage na we can lean in the next round. we just hope na sobrang pagod sila.”