Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and TNT are hoping that the little recovery time from their grueling semifinal victories won’t hinder their bids to draw first blood in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals which starts Sunday night at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Tipoff is set at 6 p.m. with the two teams out to put on a strong opening act after winning Friday’s two semifinal deciders in contrasting fashion inside the Smart Clark Giga City bubble.
Ginebra will have high confidence going into the match after surviving Meralco 83-80 on Scottie Thompson’s corner three with 0.6 seconds left, though that doesn’t mean that TNT has a strong belief on its own chances since it was able to beat Phoenix Super LPG 91-81 in the other bracket.
The psychological edge is on the Kings, who beat the Tropang Giga during their only elimination round meeting inside the bubble 85-79. Coach Tim Cone, though, opted to think otherwise.
“They were the favorite team coming into this bubble, I believe. And they showed that in the very beginning,” said Cone. “I don’t think anybody thinks anything less of them. I think they’ll be the favorites and I think we’ll go there as slight underdogs.
“They’re playing great basketball. Well-coached. And they got Jayson,” added Cone, referring to TNT captain Jayson Castro who could be the one that determines the Tropang Giga’s quest to win their first championship since the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup.
While Ray Parks Jr. has flourished into one of the favorites for the best player inside the bubble, Castro remains as the one who dictates the tempo for TNT.
The Parks-Castro backcourt will be up against the duo of Stanley Pringle, another bubble MVP contender, and LA Tenorio, who are amped up to give Ginebra its fifth title with Cone at the helm.
Coach Bong Ravena believes the series with Phoenix should be beneficial in TNT’s title aspirations.
“Siguro blessing in disguise din na natapat kami sa kanila. Laking tulong nila na Napa-galing nila kami,” said Ravena. “So pagdating sa Finals, ready kami kasi hirap na hirap kami sa Phoenix. That made us better and we’ll see.”
Other crucial factors for TNT are the consistency of RR Pogoy, Poy Erram and Troy Rosario and the play of their role players, namely Simon Enciso and veteran Jay Washington who were key in Game 5.
Japeth Aguilar and Thompson are out to show their form that made them win the Finals MVP award in the past even as Aljon Mariano, Prince Caperal and veterans Joe Devance and Jared Dillinger may provide the quality minutes during the series.