As Rain or Shine bows out, Cone says Ginebra left with toughest playoff pairing in Alaska
 “No doubt, we have the toughest road to the semis, but we like the challenge in front of us,” says Ginebra coach Tim Cone. Gerry Ramos

BARANGAY Ginebra embraces the challenge of having arguably the toughest pairing in this PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals as it faces Alaska on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Although enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the third-seeded Gin Kings have been unenviably pitted against the Aces, who have been to the past three conference finals - four of the last five.

The Aces had an uncharacteristic sluggish start to the season-ending tournament, losing four of their first five games. But they have since regained their fiery form, winning five of their last six outings to clinch the sixth seed.

The elimination of Rain or Shine on Wednesday also put further spotlight on the Aces among fellow low seeds Mahindra, NLEX, and Phoenix.

“Of all the teams in the lower four, Alaska is the last team we would choose to play,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said on Thursday. “After a tough start, they have righted themselves nicely and are playing their dynamic game again.”

“We just have to make sure we don’t allow them to disrupt too much what we like to do,” the champion coach added on the eve of the 7 p.m. matchup. “No doubt, we have the toughest road to the semis, but we like the challenge in front of us.”

[See Ginebra vs Alaska: Who you got?]

Meanwhile, defending champion San Miguel Beer seeks to get its own quarterfinal matchup over with as the twice-to-beat Beermen take on NLEX in the curtain-raiser at 4:15 p.m.

The Gin Kings have won eight of their 11 games this conference, doing it by thriving on a backcourt-centric attack led by LA Tenorio, Sol Mercado, and Scottie Thompson, who all provide support to prolific import Justin Brownlee.

The Alex Compton-mentored Aces, led by LaDontae Henton and Calvin Abueva, turn to their suffocating defense as usual to force a do-or-die game on Sunday.


Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos