Beermen, Ginebra hope they won’t need twice-to-beat card vs quarterfinal foes
Meralco coach Norman Black has spoken about the difficulty of facing a team with a twice-to-beat cushion. San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria doesn’t want his team to listen.
As far as the coach of the defending champion Beermen is concerned, there is no second crack when his team faces the Bolts in their quarterfinal showdown in the PBA Philippine Cup in Smart Clark Giga City.
“We’ll treat this as a knockout game,” he said on the eve of the Friday showdown against Meralco at 4 p.m. at Angeles University Foundation powered by Smart 5G.
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone, meanwhile, expects a “grind-it-out” battle against Rain or Shine in the later game and won’t rely on his squad’s playoff cushion either, even if the Kings will be matched up against the bottom-seeded squad of the playoff roster.
“One versus eight sounds like a lot of separation, [but] there is very little that actually separates us,” Cone said.
There’s very little that separates all quarterfinalists, in fact. Two teams finished with 8-3 win-loss records while five squads were jammed at 7-4—for three of those squads, they missed twice-to-beat protection by mere quotient points.
Rain or Shine, the eighth seed, wound up with a 6-5 record, just two wins below the Kings.
“And they beat us in the [elimination round],” Cone said.
Behind the 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists of high-IQ big man Beau Belga, the Painters hammered out a tough 85-82 overtime victory over Ginebra last Oct. 27. Belga nailed the dagger triple with 1:34 remaining to give the kings a five-point cushion in the extra period, but Cone believes it will be the Painters’ defense that his Kings will have to crack.
“[Rain or Shine] plays big and is long at the wing positions—which poses unique problems for teams and why they are such a good defensive team,” Cone said. “They have lots of defensive schemes and are difficult to prepare for.
“We expect this game to be a real grind-it-out battle.”
That thin separation between the quarterfinalists is why Austria hopes he doesn’t need to flash his twice-to-beat card.
“We’re so lucky that we even made the Top 4,” said Austria, who was coming from a practice session made tough by the inclement weather. A few quotient points here and there could have easily knocked San Miguel—which has won the league’s most prestigious trophy the last five seasons—out of the Top 4.
“I’ll rely on the experience of this team in this playoffs,” he added, wary of the Bolts’ eagerness to milk what has been a promising run thus far in this bubble.
Meralco made its first all-Filipino playoff appearance in five seasons and Black is relishing the opportunity—and the daunting task the comes with it.
“It’s gonna be a tough game. We’ll have to play one of our better games this conference to be able to beat them,” said the Grand Slam coach, who also just turned 63, in a chance encounter with the Inquirer at the hotel lobby.
The Beermen defeated the Bolts, 89-82, in an elimination round match last Oct. 28.
Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia, too, will need his squad to be near-perfect against the powerhouse Kings as he hopes to force Ginebra to burn its playoff bonus and force a do-or-die match.
And he isn’t putting too much stock on that previous win against Ginebra.
“Sure we could copy what we did right [in our first meeting],” he said late Wednesday night after a loss to Phoenix dumped the Painters into a showdown with the Kings
“[I]t will be a totally different Ginebra team [in the playoffs].”
Still, both Garcia and Black vow to give their teams a fighting chance in this historic staging of the league’s centerpiece tournament.
“If we go out there and play good basketball, we’d give ourselves a good chance to win. We’ll be out there and be competitive tomorrow,” Black said.
“It’s going be a tough one against the No. 1 team,” Garcia said. “But you just have to be positive about [your chances].”
Against teams shielded with a playoff bonus and will treat Friday’s showdown as do-or-die, positivity and opportunity could go a long way for Black and Garcia.
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