Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Phoenix Super LPG are out to deliver the finishing blow on their foes and arrange a title showdown on Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Ginebra looks to finally hand Meralco another playoff heartbreak at 3:45 p.m. while Phoenix tries to eliminate title contender TNT at 6:30 p.m. in Game 4 of their respective best-of-five semifinal affairs.
The two teams took a 2-1 lead following their victories last Sunday inside the Smart Clark Giga City bubble. The best-of-seven Finals starts Friday if Ginebra and Phoenix close it out, otherwise a deciding fifth game in either of both series will be held on the same day.
Stanley Pringle led the way in Ginebra’s 91-84 win while Matthew Wright bucked off an ankle sprain to hit clutch baskets in Phoenix’s 92-89 victory.
Both candidates for the best player of the bubble are expected to play prominent roles as Ginebra and Phoenix are bracing for a stubborn challenge from the two MVP-owned squads.
“The hardest thing to win in the series is the closeout game,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “I find oftentimes Game 4s harder to win than Game 5s of a five-game series.
“We understand that and we know that. We’ll just have to find our way through it. And it really comes down to really lifting your intensity level of the other team because they’re desperate now. They have to win,” he added.
Expected to bring that intensity level a notch higher is Pringle, who frustrated Meralco for 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
A victory will send Ginebra to the finals for the 27th time in its four-decade history in Asia’s first pay-for-play loop.
Phoenix is eyeing its first-ever stint in the PBA’s grandest stage which will be a landmark achievement for the young ballclub. Until now, the Fuel Masters have not made it this far since entering the league in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.
Wright, who dropped 25 points including a pair of clutch baskets in the final three minutes, won’t be the only player the Phoenix will need in order to win as Calvin Abueva and Jason Perkins have been crucial throughout the bubble.
But Phoenix coach Topex Robinson is not counting out TNT just yet despite being in a favorable situation.
“We don’t really focus on finishing it off on Wednesday or anything else, we just want to be the better team from (Game 3). We could do better,” said Robinson, who constantly tells his team to be the “best versions of themselves.”