Ginebra-Magnolia duel highlights PBA holiday special
The league is calling it a Season of Joy, a two-day celebration of fans’ return to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Coach Topex Robinson of Phoenix calls it a “season of hope.”
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, initially, was not too keen on the idea of combing through narratives going into Magnolia’s Christmas Day duel against fancied rival and Governors’ Cup defending champion Barangay Ginebra.
“We just want to prepare for this game just like any other games,” he said.
But he admitted that there was something special about suiting up on Saturday.
“Hopefully we can execute and prepare well for this game—a Christmas Day gift for the PBA’s fans—[especially] for both Magnolia and Ginebra fans,” said Victolero. “The hype, the fans will motivate the players.”
The two teams clash in the main game of the Christmas Day fare, with both squads hoping to keep their unbeaten cards entering the new year.
Magnolia may have a little more motivation on the side. The Hotshots have lost their last three Christmas duels with the Gin Kings, and Saturday’s edition marks the first time that the league will stage a holiday special since 2017.
This one is a little sweeter. With the pandemic locking fans out of venues for the past two tournaments, the Governors’ Cup became the first league conference to welcome spectators back. Naturally, the league wanted to make it special, penciling the most popular basketball rivalry in the pro ranks for Christmas Day—and then some.
In a two-day celebration the PBA branded as the Season of Joy, NLEX will take on Phoenix in the 4 p.m. curtain raiser, with the Road Warriors hoping to build on a 4-0 start.
“It’s actually something you look forward to—you have a celebration of Christmas and at the same time you’re playing the game that you love,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao. “Giving the fans a special treat on Christmas? That’s something special for us. We’re looking forward to that.”
Robinson, on the other hand, hopes to bask in the moment and soak up every chance that he and his team gets playing before a crowd—something that would allow the PBA and its fans to thumb their noses at a global health crisis that has upended our way of life.“I’m excited. It’s my first time,” he said.
“I miss that crowd as much as they’re not cheering for us,” he added with a chuckle. “But that’s bringing people hope. That’s what basketball’s all about.”
On Sunday, Terrafirma battles San Miguel Beer and TNT takes on Rain or Shine with the Quezon City Government, where the Big Dome is located, gifting complimentary tickets to the games as a tribute to its front-liners who continue to serve during the pandemic.
A full-strength Magnolia side is entering the contest, a formidable challenger for the crowd darlings who continue to miss a bevy of its role players and star guard Stanley Pringle due to an assortment of injuries.
Mike Harris, flashing his Best Import form from two years ago, and the Hotshots’ bench will pose problems for the Kings too.
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone noted that the games the Hotshots have played “haven’t been close. So they’re obviously playing at a really, really high level.”
But Justin Brownlee could be the great equalizer in the match, plus the fact that it is Ginebra versus Magnolia.
“There’s not a lot of need for motivation, from the coaching staff or from management, because these players are super motivated to play against each other. And they know how important it is to the fans, so I think we’re all looking forward to that Christmas Day game,” said Cone.
“It’s certainly one that you want to win, because it certainly ruins your Christmas if you don’t win it,” he went on. “The loser goes home extra sad.”
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