The red-hot Magnolia Pambansang Manok hopes to draw first blood against Meralco while NLEX aims to get a headstart over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel as the PBA Governors' Cup Best-of-5 semifinals begins on Wednesday in the league’s return to the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Hotshots battle the Bolts in the curtain raiser at 3 p.m. while the Road Warriors take on the Gin Kings in the main event at 6 p.m.
NLEX, which was pushed to the limit by the Alaska Aces in the quarterfinals, remains wary of Ginebra especially after it overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage against another powerhouse squad in TNT Tropang Giga.
Head coach Yeng Guiao had earlier commended the performance of the Gin Kings especially the one-two punch of Scottie Thompson and Justin Brownlee who carried the flight for Ginebra in its series against TNT.
Out to lead NLEX are guards Kevin Alas, Don Trollano and Matt Nieto while big men Jay-R Quinahan and Raoul Soyud are expected to anchor the paint for the Road Warriors.
All eyes will also be on import Cameron Clark, who averaged 24.5 points and 12 rebounds in the quarterfinals, as he takes on Ginebra’s resident import Brownlee.
Brownlee and Thompson, meanwhile, will get support from the likes of LA Tenorio, Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar as the Gin Kings continue the quest for their fourth Governors' Cup title in the last five seasons.
In the other pairing, the Hotshots just got a lot stronger as Calvin Abueva slowly finds his form just in time for their semis showdown against the Bolts. Albeit playing in limited minutes, Abueva still produced solid numbers of 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists in just 19 minutes of play in Magnolia’s 127-88 drubbing of Phoenix Super LPG.
Still spearheading the attack for the Hotshots is its dreaded backcourt trio of Paul Lee, Mark Barocca and Jio Jalalon.
Mike Harris, averaging 29.64 points and 13.73 rebounds, remains the focal point of the offense for the Hotshot as he takes on Meralco’s Tony Bishop who is brimming with confidence after sending Best Import frontrunner Shabazz Muhammad home following the Bolts' 100-85 triumph against the San Miguel Beermen.
Contributions from the likes Chris Newsome, Raymund Almazan and Chris Banchero are also deemed crucial if Meralco wishes to topple Magnolia.