Defending champion San Miguel Beer and top seed Barangay Ginebra aim to make short work of their respective foes and arrange a semis clash as quarterfinal action in the PBA Philippine Cup starts on Friday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
The Beermen face the Meralco Bolts at 4 p.m. while the Kings take on the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters at 6:45 p.m. to usher in the start of playoff basketball inside the bubble known as Smart Clark Giga City.
SMB and Ginebra carry the twice-to-beat advantage, so are Phoenix Super LPG and TNT which will seek to book their semifinal duel tomorrow.
No. 2 Phoenix battles No. 7 Magnolia, the league’s hottest team, at 6:45 p.m. following No. 3 TNT’s clash with No. 6 Alaska at 4 p.m.
San Miguel starts the second phase of its quest for a sixth consecutive Philippine Cup crown as the fourth seed which it barely secured after being part of a five-way tie at 7-4 and getting some help from Phoenix’s 90-88 win over Rain or Shine in Wednesday’s elimination round finale.
The road could be tougher for the Beermen, who entered the bubble without June Mar Fajardo, lost Terrence Romeo to a shoulder injury and ailments that forced Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter to miss some games.
Mo Tautuaa (18.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists), Arwind Santos (13.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals), Ross (7.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.3 steals), Lassiter (15.9 points on 43.1-percent shooting) and Alex Cabagnot (13.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists) will be relied mainly in SMB’s bid to repeat its 89-82 win over Meralco in the elims.
Meralco could pose as a tough customer after advancing to its first All-Filipino quarterfinals since 2015 as the fifth seed behind Chris Newsome (14.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals), Reynel Hugnatan (12.0 points), Allein Maliksi (10.5 points), Baser Amer (9.8 points, 3.3 assists), Cliff Hodge (8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds), Raymond Almazan (8.6 points, 6.9 rebounds), Bong Quinto (8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists) and rookie Aaron Black (7.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists).
Ginebra topped the elims at 8-3 after overcoming a two-game slide by going 4-1 in seven days.
The Kings are hoping to live up to their billing as the biggest threat to the Beermen’s title-retention should their main weapons maintain the form they shown in the eliminations.
Stanley Pringle (18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists) was Ginebra’s best player of the elims, Scottie Thompson (11.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.3 steals), Prince Caperal (9.6 points, 4.4 rebounds) and Aljon Mariano (9.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists) were consistent throughout while Japeth Aguilar (14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks) and LA Tenorio (6.6 points, 4.2 assists) appear to have peak at the right time.
But Ginebra fell short against Rain or Shine 85-82 in overtime during the eliminations, though the Elasto Painters go into the playoffs as the eighth seed after dropping four of the last six.
Javee Mocon (12.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks), Beau Belga (11.1 points and 5.6 rebounds), Rey Nambatac (8.6 points) and Gabe Norwood (5.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals) are expected to lead ROS’ quest for an upset.