Brownlee-Balkman showdown looms
After teaming up as imports to secure the Asean Basketball League championship for San Miguel Alab Pilipinas last April, Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman are within a win of forging an exciting duel as rivals in the finals of the ongoing PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Putting up a virtual one-man show, Brownlee lifted Barangay Ginebra past Rain or Shine, 75-72, on Saturday to match the 2-1 record of Balkman’s San Miguel Beer in its own best-of-five semifinal series against Alaska a day earlier.
Brownlee came within two points of matching his career-best output in the league by unloading 44 points, 25 of them in the first half which Ginebra took at 46-23. The lead went up to 25 before the Elasto Painters rallied in a manner that recalled their explosive finish in their 109-100 win over the Gins in Game 2 of the series.
Rain or Shine, which survived four games in extra time en route to a top 9-2 win-loss record in the eliminations, had a chance of forging overtime but James Yap miserably missed the tying triple attempt from way out.
The Gin Kings try to end the series Monday with the possible Game 5 set on Wednesday.
Balkman actually had a chance of reaching the finals as early as Friday but the Aces, despite missing stars Calvin Abueva and Chris Banchero, surprised the Beermen with sustained firepower and stayed alive with a 125-104 win after back-to-back losses (92-79 and 105-94).
SMB was going for the clincher anew at press time Sunday and gets another chance this Tuesday in case underdog Alaska bucks the odds again.
Balkman and Brownlee both came in as last-minute replacements following struggling starts by the Beermen and the Gin Kings in the eliminations. Balkman actually ended SMB’s three-game opening slump while Brownlee produced a triple double when he rejoined Ginebra but failed to stop Meralco from slapping a third loss in four games for the Gins.
SMB improved to 2-3 while keeping Ginebra among the tailenders at 1-5 with a 104-97 victory when Balkman first meet Brownlee as rivals last June 3. Balkman outscored his old buddy then, 27-18, but Brownlee, who has given Ginebra the last two Governors’ Cup championship, went on to power the Gin Kings to eight straight wins before the Elasto Painters ended the streak last Thursday.
Ginebra nosed out SMB as No. 5 after the eliminations and if the sister teams end up fighting for the championship again, it would be a fresh angle in their torrid chase of titles in the league.