NLEX, Magnolia square off; Ginebra, Meralco end grudge rematch
Barangay Ginebra may have won all of its previous playoff meetings against Meralco, but coach Tim Cone acknowledged that it wasn’t as easy as it looks.
“Everyone of them, even when Justin [Brownlee] was here, they’re all tooth and nail. So I’m not surprised this time around,” said Cone as the Gin Kings attempt to add more misery to the Bolts in the deciding third game of their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal series.
The scene shifts to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City for the 6:30 p.m. game, which could see more elbows flying and exchange of choice words following a tension-filled Game 2 that ended with Ginebra avoiding a Meralco sweep.
“I assume the physicality is going to be the same,” Cone said.
Raising a howl
Even as Ginebra prepares for a grueling showdown, one of Meralco’s main players raised howl on social media over what he feels was borderline physical and dirty.
“Privilege making people brave! Beware of Fake Tough Guys everywhere!” Chris Newsome tweeted shortly after the Bolts lost, 94-87, last Friday at Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.
Newsome on Saturday showed a video of him being elbowed by Prince Caperal in the nape during the second quarter, and his pair of tweets could light a fire on either himself and the Bolts or the Kings.
At stake is a best-of-seven semifinal duel with San Miguel Beer, which easily closed out Blackwater last Wednesday but got an extended rest when Ginebra pushed the series to the limit.
Ginebra has won all five series against Meralco, a trend the latter hopes to finally end even if thousands of fans rooting against them may come out and create a boisterous atmosphere.
Other Game 3
NLEX, on the other hand, is relishing on being the underdog as it tries to eliminate fancied Magnolia in the other best-of-three quarterfinal decider that tips off at 4:30 p.m.
The Road Warriors sent the series to a deciding match after a fiery first half anchored by the returning Kevin Alas set the tone for a 90-77 victory, a result that also snapped the Hotshots’ eight-game winning run.
Though the odds are still stacked against his squad, especially playing opposite talent-laden Magnolia, coach Yeng Guiao also sees NLEX being on even terms as a chance to create a massive upset.
“Parehas ang labanan, tapatan natin sila (It’s an even battle so we have to match them),” said Guiao, who has steered NLEX to only two semifinal appearances since his tenure started in the 2016-17 season.
Defending champion TNT, also in a long break after dispatching newcomer Converge, awaits the winner of the NLEX-Magnolia tussle in their own best-of-seven semis duel.