THE PBA holds its own version of the Final Four in a pair of critical Governors Cup match-ups, and it obviously can’t get any better than this.
The four remaining teams still in contention for the two Finals berth in the season-ending conference face each other on the final day of the semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, their respective fates well-defined by the time this Wednesday to remember is over.
Rain or Shine and B-Meg, the two teams tied on top with similar 9-4 (win-loss) cards, clash in the curtain raiser with no less than a berth in the championship round on the line in their 5:15 p.m. encounter.
Two hours later, Barangay Ginebra and Talk `N Text, both carrying identical 8-5 slates, battle in no-tomorrow showdown for the right to earn a playoff for the second finals slot.
The winner of the Ginebra-Talk `N Text tussle get to avail of the 4-of-5 semis playoff incentive, and will face the loser of the Rain or Shine-B-Meg game in a similar do-or-die match for the last Finals ticket.
Big wins by the Llamados over the Kings, 82-70, and the Texters against the Elasto Painters, 98-90, forged this rare, super-doubleheader.
B-Meg mentor Tim Cone doesn’t expect a second Finals stint to come on a silver platter for his Llamados, especially that they will be up against an opponent whose coach he respects so much.
"Yeng Guiao teams are always tough with their backs against the wall, so we’re really expecting a tough, bruising encounter,” said the American coach, who steered the Llamados to the Commissioner’s Cup championship just two months ago.
The Elasto Painters, who advanced to the semis with an 8-1 record, have now lost three of their last four games, as their bid for a first Finals stint in franchise history had been derailed again and again.
And bad news kept cropping up within the Rain or Shine camp as top gunners Paul Lee (left shoulder) and Jeff Chan (sprained right foot) skipped practice on Tuesday to rest their respective injuries they aggravated in that sorry loss to Talk `N Text on Monday night.
However, Guiao remains unperturbed, saying, “we consider it as a challenge, and if our top scorers cannot play, then the rest need to step up. I know they will try their best and be ready to take on B-Meg.”
The Rain or Shine coach told his boys, “isang panalo na lang, sana ibuhos niyo na ang lahat, sayang ang itinanim natin.”
If the Elasto Painters are on a funk, the Tropang Texters are the exact opposite, having won their last three games to remain in contention for a third straight Finals stint this season.
The mission obviously, is far from over for the telecommunication franchise.
“All we did tonight was to buy us a little bit more time,” said Chot Reyes, the Talk `N Text coach, following the victory over Rain or Shine. “Our situation hasn’t changed. We’d like to be happy, but unfortunately, we cannot afford to be happy because there’s gonna be a very big game on Wednesday.”
The Texters are also facing a Ginebra side that’s fresh from one of its worst losses this season.
The Kings were held to just 70 points by the Llamados’ defense Sunday on 32 percent shooting from two-point range (26-of-79) and a 16 percent clip from three-point range (3-of-18).
Top gunner Mark Caguioa was the biggest flop among the Kings as the Fil-Am guard was limited to just three points--all from the free throw line--as he went 0-of-12 from the field in 29 minutes of play.
“I just told Siot (Tanquingcen) that the biggest consolation we have is that we have our worst game at this time of the semis, hindi pa kami out of contention,” said assistant coach Allan Caidic.
“Now we have a chance to get back and redeem ourselves,” he added, “especially si Mark (Caguioa). Sigurado, babawi yan.”