By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup moves to a new round beginning today with the start of the quarterfinals.
Kicking things off in the last eight are a pair of Game Ones in a best-of-three series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Third-seeded team TNT Ka Tropa take on the defending champions and number six team San Miguel Beermen in the curtain-raiser at 4:30 p.m. while no. 4 team Meralco Bolts jostle with fifth-seeded Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in the main game at 7 p.m.
TNT secured the third spot after tallying an 8-3 record at the end of the elimination round.
It hit a rough patch towards the end of the classification phase of the midseason PBA tournament but managed to regain its footing, winning its last two assignments against Meralco and top-seeds Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
While they fell short of the twice-to-beat incentive given to the top-two finishers at the end of the eliminations, KaTropa coach Nash Racela is still grateful of where they wound up in the first half of the tournament.
“We just made it to the best-of-three series… This is better than where we were the last conference,” said Mr. Racela, referring to their eighth-place finish in the Philippine Cup where they faced a twice-to-win disadvantage against San Miguel, after their 100-85 victory over Rain or Shine on July 7.
San Miguel (6-5), on the other end, turned things around after starting its campaign with three straight losses.
It wound up in sixth place after losing to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok, 101-97, on the final day of the eliminations last Saturday.
The defeat also stopped the Beermen’s three-game winning streak.
In their lone encounter in the elimination round on June 16, San Miguel got the better of TNT, 99-94.
Import Renaldo Balkman had a monster game of 43 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks and four assists for the Beermen in said game which they pretty much dominated.
June Mar Fajardo had 19 points while Alex Cabagnot had 12.
Burly reinforcement Joshua Smith had 26 points and 18 boards for TNT with Roger Pogoy and Don Trollano adding 13 points each.
BOLTS VS KINGS AGAIN
Meanwhile, in the other quarterfinal pairing, the Bolts and Kings go at it again in another high-stakes series.
The protagonists in the last two PBA Governors’ Cup finals, the path of Meralco and Barangay Ginebra meets anew.
Both teams are on high entering their quarterfinal series with the Bolts winning their last two games while the Kings racked up five straight victories after going 1-5 in their first six games.
Meralco defeated Barangay Ginebra, 93-82, in their only encounter in the classification phase on June 1 that saw import Arinze Onuaku posting huge numbers of 24 points and 23 rebounds.
Chris Newsome had 22 points while Jared Dillinger and Anjo Caram added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Kings import Justin Brownlee had a triple-double of 20 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists.
But despite the loss in their first encounter, the Kings vowed to be better in their about-to-start series with the Bolts.
“We’ll not be satisfied and we’ll continue to focus on getting better,” said Mr. Brownlee following their last game in the eliminations, a 116-98 victory of the GlobalPort Batang Pier, on June 6.
“We’re already in a playoff mode. We’ll stay aggressive and, hopefully, we keep going. We’ll continue to come out and play,” he added.
The rest of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup pairings will Rain or Shine battle eighth-seeded GlobalPort and the second-seeds Alaska Aces taking on Magnolia. Both Rain or Shine and Alaska carry twice-to-beat advantages.