Game 1 between reigning champion San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel will ignite the best-of-seven semifinals action at 7 p.m. tonight in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 43 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Last conference, the Gin Kings shattered the Beermen’s Grand Slam hope by booting them out of the Governor’s Cup quarterfinals. Ginebra, then, eliminated TNT KaTropa in the semifinals en route to trouncing Meralco to capture its back-to-back Governor’s Cup crowns.
But revenge is not on San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria’s mind.
“We are not thinking of any revenge game or anything but we are really motivated to play against them because they are the crowd favorite,” said Austria, who will rely on June Mar Fajardo who is coming off a 35-point, 11-rebound and two-block performance in their last game against TNT.
“This is a very important game because every game counts.”
Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage heading to the quarterfinals, San Miguel Beer ousted No. 8 TNT 106-93 last Tuesday.
“We were defeated by Ginebra before without Greg (Slaughter) so how about if he’s there,” added Austria. “So we have to be ready because we knew from the start of the season that they are capable of beating us.”
Austria believes that the Beermen have a weakened lineup after losing veteran players Ronald Tubid, Jay-R Reyes and Rashawn McCarthy who were traded to Kia last year.
“We lost good players in our last year’s core because of that trade and their replacement is still in Hong Kong,” said Austria, referring to last year’s top overall pick Christian Standhardinger who’s still playing with the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions in the ASEAN Basketball League.
Grand slam coach Tim Cone of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, describes powerhouse San Miguel Beer as a “monster” team.
The Beermen are targeting their fourth straight Philippine Cup title this season.
“You can refer that to San Miguel Beer or you can refer that to June Mar. They won three championships in a row in this conference for a reason. They out steadied TNT the whole game and June Mar has 30 points,” said Cone.
“Big question obviously is whether Greg (Slaughter) is going to play,” he said. “I would say if the game is the day after tomorrow, he wouldn’t play. But if given another day or two, he may play but we expect him to be back in the series. We are just hoping we don’t fall too far behind without him so that he can make an impact.”
Cone said Slaughter, who is averaging points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 blocks in seven games in the elimination, is their answer to San Miguel Beer’s Fajardo.