Devance-less Ginebra braces for intact San Miguel Beer as sister squads collide for playoff spots
Coach Tim Cone and the Kings look to avoid another loss but face a tough task against powerhouse SMB. Jerome Ascano

BARANGAY Ginebra seeks to get recommit to its identity as it braces for a San Miguel Beer that’s finally fielding an intact lineup in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup showdown on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Gin Kings are coming off a blowout loss to Tropang TNT last Wednesday and would’ve suffered back-to-back defeats if not for LA Tenorio’s heroics in a one-point win over Phoenix two Saturdays ago in Panabo.

“We stepped out of character the last couple of games and we really have to recover our basics and the way we think we should play,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said on Saturday.

Now, the Gin Kings face a second-running Beermen side that’s expected to welcome the return of June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos as well as Ronald Tubid.

Ginebra, in a four-way tie in fourth spot with a 5-4 win-loss record, will also miss veteran point forward Joe Devance, who is taking time off after his father passed away a few days ago.

“We’ve got an incredibly tough opponent who seems to be getting all their players back into their lineup,” Cone said. “It’ll be a tough mountain to climb, especially without Joe Devance available to play for us.”

A victory for either sister squad in the 5:15 p.m. faceoff will enable its entry to the playoffs.

Othyus Jeffers, the Gin Kings’ undersized, yet prolific import, leads his squad against the Beermen, who also boast a standout reinforcement in Tyler Wilkerson.

“Our import has been working really hard because of their (Fajardo, Santos) absence,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “What more if we have Arwind and June Mar?”

Pacesetting Meralco, which, even being idle at 6-2, has booked a ticket to the postseason courtesy of Alaska’s win over Star on Saturday, seeks to gain momentum heading into the playoffs  as it takes on Mahindra (4-4) in the curtain-raiser at 3 o’clock.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos