THERE are different ways of looking at it, but Tim Cone and Norman Black simply view it as a semifinal series.
The Governors’ Cup playoff showdown between San Mig Coffee and Talk ’N Text is a rematch of the last conference finals; another match between two grand slam coaches; a chance for revenge for Commisioners’ Cup runners-ups Texters; and for the Mixers, a huge hurdle in their bid for a season sweep, among others.
But most of all, it is a chance for Black, who won a grand slam with San Miguel Beer in 1989, to stop Cone - who won one with Alaska in 1996 - from becoming the first coach in history to complete two grand slams.
The teams clash at 8 p.m. on Thursday, the first game in a best-of-five series, and Cone says thinking about the grand slam now would be looking too far ahead.
Instead, Cone revealed he is relishing another tactical battle with Black.
“It’s always an honor to match wits with Norman Black and his staff,” said Cone, who has steered the San Mig franchise to its eighth straight semifinal appearance.
“His players have such great versatility and mental toughness so they are always a tough matchup. Plus they have developed into a tough defensive team over the last few conferences. It should be a ‘Finals’ caliber-like series,” he added.
San Mig reached the semifinals on Tuesday after a come-from-behind 97-90 victory over sister team San Miguel Beer.
But the Mixers will probably miss top local gunner Peter June Simon, who missed the team’s quarterfinal match against the Beermen due to severe back spasms.
On the other hand, Black isn’t thinking about redeeming themselves following their 1-3 Commissioner’s Cup Finals defeat to Cone and the Mixers last month.
Instead, they are focused on trying to match San Mig’s energy and intensity in what could be a series that can go down the wire.
“We recognize that we are up against the most successful team this year so we must bring the energy and hunger to beat them,” said Black, whose team beat San Mig, 92-88 last week in their elimination round match.
Comebacking import Paul Harris was at his best in that game, firing 39 points on a PBA career-best nine three-point shots to help Talk ’N Text pull off the win in the end.
“Defense will be the key to the series because we know they will play good defense, so you have to match them on that end of the court,” added Black, who is looking for his 12th PBA title overall as a coach.