MANILA, Philippines – Few questioned coach Jorge Gallent when he predicted that the San Miguel Beer team’s path to the PBA Governors’ Cup triumph would be paved with challenges.
The playoffs mean that nothing is going to be simple, and Gallent has predicted that the semifinals will be challenging for his team.
The Beermen face off against Barangay Ginebra in their Final Four matchup on Friday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, which is more important now that Barangay Ginebra is up against an old foe with more at stake.
In order to provide skipper LA Tenorio, who is currently fighting colon cancer, with a proper homage, the Gin Kings are hoping to go past the best-of-five pairing and go on to capture their fourth consecutive tournament championship.
But, let’s start at the beginning.
Even though the Beermen are playing without star center June Mar Fajardo due to injury, Ginebra defeated SMB 3-2 the previous time they faced each other in the semis of the 2016 Governors’ Cup. This time around, the same outcome is anticipated.
Coach Tim Cone is not so convinced, even drawing comparisons between his Gin Kings and their opponents.
After a 127-93 victory against an NLEX team without any imports in their quarterfinal matchup last Sunday, Cone observed, “We are playing well, but San Miguel is playing arguably the best in the league right now.”
Cone continued, “But it’s going to be a really, really tough series even if June Mar is not there. They are really playing well. They are like us. They are sharing the ball, they play defense a bit differently than us. It is super effective, I mean they lead the league in defense, I believe.
Cone added, “They’ve shown they can play at a high level without June Mar during the past three games. They actually play faster, more up-and-down, and have done a great job of coping without June Mar. Their import has a chance to dominate the interior a bit more.
With international Cameron Clark and CJ Perez leading the Beermen, SMB has won three games in a row despite being without Fajardo. The streak was culminated by a 121-105 thrashing of Converge earlier on Sunday.
Cone remarked, “They have a lot of weaponry out there.” “You simply have to figure out how to contain someone, especially the import and CJ. They’ve all contributed and are moving the ball much better than they have in the past, which has been the key to their success.”
Cone, on the other hand, is armed with his own weapons, including a number of defensive strategies and the trio of Christian Standhardinger, Justin Brownlee, and Jamie Malonzo, who should work together to make things extremely difficult for SMB.