The PBA Philippine Cup semifinals will feature a pair of matchups that has interesting back stories and collection of players expected to continue why they were among the bests inside the Smart Clark Giga City bubble.
It will also be an opportunity for the four remaining teams inside the bubble to grab the most important prize following the end of San Miguel Beer’s dominance in the PBA’s most important tournament.
Here’s a look at the semifinal matchups which starts Wednesday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel vs Meralco Bolts
This series marks the fifth time in four years that the two teams will meet in a playoffs, making this one of the PBA’s current rivalries, albeit a one-sided affair.
Ginebra has won all of the previous four meetings, including their PBA Governors’ Cup Finals encounters in 2016, 2017 and 2019. This will be their first series in an All-Filipino tourney, thus the absence of familiar figures Justin Brownlee and Allen Durham.
Like in the past, advantage goes to Ginebra with its talent-laden lineup of Stanley Pringle, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio and Aljon Mariano. Of the players mentioned, Pringle, Thompson and Aguilar could make the difference while Tenorio is hoping to continue his mastery over the Meralco backcourt.
Ginebra also prevailed, 105-91, over Meralco in the eliminations last Oct. 19, but that was when the Bolts have yet to reach their potential of finally making the playoffs after a string of dismal campaigns in the All-Filipino.
Meralco was responsible for dethroning SMB after needing to win twice in their quarterfinal series. The manner of how the Bolts beat the Beermen with almost everyone contributing should pose as a warning for the Kings.
But the key for Meralco to produce an upset are Chris Newsome and Baser Amer, who had their share of struggles against Ginebra in the past postseason meetings. Raymond Almazan is out for redemption after his Finals stint last January was cut short by a knee injury.
Having rookie Aaron Black, sophomore forward Bong Quinto, Allein Maliksi and Meralco mainstays Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan carry their performance from the quarters will be huge for the Bolts.
Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters vs TNT Tropang Giga
Both teams don’t have countless playoff duels but the presence of Calvin Abueva has made consider this series as the more intriguing one.
Abueva will face TNT for the first time since his hit on import Terrence Jones prompted the PBA to slap an indefinite suspension on the Fuel Masters star which lasted until the first couple of weeks of the bubble season.
There’s also the perceived running feud between Abueva and Ray Parks Jr. Abueva came under fire when he made a lewd gesture at Parks’ girlfriend during a game between Phoenix and the latter’s former team Blackwater.
Abueva later said that he had personally apologized to Parks during a chance encounter in the bubble, only for Parks to refute some of Abueva’s claims in a now-deleted social media post.
Outside of that controversy, the series will pit four players in the running for the best player inside the bubble.
Phoenix’s Matthew Wright and Jason Perkins and TNT’s Parks and Pogoy made it to the top 10 of the Statistical Points race after their impressive productions in the eliminations. The semis could determine their outlook of which player has a strong chance of taking the award as the best.
But that is secondary for these players as they aim to send their teams to the finals, mainly with their outside shooting and stingy defense.
TNT has Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario and Poy Erram while Phoenix will also bank on shotblocker leader Justin Chua and heady guard RJ Jazul.