SIBLING rivalry gets renewed as San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra square off on one side of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals starting on Monday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen and the Gin Kings have had the same solid showings in the elimination round, finishing tied with an 8-3 win-loss record and hardly gave an inch when they faced off in the elimination round.
So something has got to give when the sister squads tangle once again in the best-of-five series that dangles a spot in the finals opposite the winner of the TNT Katropa-Meralco pairing.
It took two overtimes before the Beermen outlasted the Gin Kings, 111-105, in their elimination-round encounter where SMB squandered an early 24-point lead before proving steadier in the second extra session.
AZ Reid was still SMB’s import that time and having a different reinforcement this time gives the Beermen a new look against the Gin Kings, who had the services of Chris Ellis in their meeting and had eight points. The Ginebra forward has been reactivated but is still questionable due to a groin injury.
What’s expected to be the same is the SMC squads waging an all-out war.
Let’s take a look at the matchups between both sides:
Elijah Millsap has only played two games for SMB since replacing Mike Singletary, but the returning import has shown better chemistry with his teammates, tallying 39 points, 11 boards, three assists, and one steal in their quarterfinal win over NLEX last Friday.
The Beermen squeezed in an Asian import in Mahmoud Abdeen late in the conference to add punch to its backcourt, but the Jordanian playmaker has yet to make a significant impact.
The Gin Kings may have only one in Justin Brownlee, but the league’s most popular team hasn’t asked for more as the prolific import delivers when Ginebra needs him most, as evidenced by their five-point win in the quarterfinals over Alaska where he banked in a three-pointer that doused an Aces comeback.
Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot have brought balance to the SMB backcourt, with the former being more of a facilitator and the team’s best defender, and the latter doing it with his clutch offense.
The Gin Kings have a similar approach, with coach Tim Cone starting two point guards at the same time in LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson. Tenorio registered 17 points, five boards, five assists, three steals, and one block the last time they met, while Thompson was scoreless, although he hauled down seven rebounds, dished out three assists, and picked the pocket of an SMB player once.
The Beermen parade the best frontcourt tandem in the league in June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos, who have three MVP awards combined. Fajardo is poised to win a third straight MVP plum after being an unstoppable force as usual, while Santos has recovered from offseason ankle surgery and is back to his usual form.
Japeth Aguilar has shown flashes of dominance, but has made questionable decisions as of late, while Joe Devance played his best game this conference against SMB, scoring 16 points, six boards, five assists, and one steal in 32 minutes off the bench that went for naught.
While he’s a regular starter, Marcio Lassiter came off the bench against the Gin Kings and provided a huge spark with 17 points, built around five three-pointers, in 44 minutes.
Ronald Tubid has made timely contributions late in the conference, while the combined production of Gabby Espinas, Yancy de Ocampo, and Jay-R Reyes has been more than enough to make up for when Fajardo goes to the bench.
Ryan Arana and Brian Heruela have also delivered in limited minutes for an SMB bench that’s so deep that Gary David, who is nursing a minor knee injury and hasn’t played for three games now, doesn’t need to rush his return.
Sol Mercado has been a gauge of the Gin Kings’ success this conference, while Mark Caguioa, Dave Marcelo, Jervy Cruz, and Aljon Mariano have alternatingly pitched in.
The Beermen appear to have the advantage in most matchups, but the Gin Kings can count on 'homecourt advantage' with their army of fans plus coach Tim Cone, who knows more about winning championships than any other coach in the pro league.
If their elimination-round meeting is any indication, there’ll be no brotherly love between the two sides once again in a series that’s expected to go the distance. But it's hard not to like San Miguel's chances in this series.