By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
AFTER a two-week break for the holidays, the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup resumes action today with Game One of the best-of-seven finals series between the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and the Meralco Bolts.
Happening at the Smart Araneta Coliseum at 7 p.m., the Kings and Bolts reengage in the championship for the season-ending PBA tournament after their previous jousts in 2016 and 2017.
Barangay Ginebra has had the number of Meralco in the finals to date, taking the first two encounters, 4-2 and 4-3, respectively.
But the Bolts have fortified their roster of late with solid acquisitions which it hopes could help them finally go over the hump and win their first-ever PBA crown.
In the road to the finals, the Kings fended off a spirited challenge from the upset-minded Northport Batang Pier, 3-1, in their best-of-five semifinal series. Prior to that, fourth-seeded Barangay Ginebra eliminated and crushed the grand slam hopes of the San Miguel Beermen in the quarterfinals where they saw no need to use their twice-to-beat advantage.
On the part of Meralco, it outlasted the TNT KaTropa in a tough best-of-five semifinals series, 3-2, after dispatching the Alaska Aces in the quarterfinals.
Both teams said they are expecting a tightly fought series, requiring them to be at their level best.
For basketball site Humblebola editor-in-chief Karlo Lovenia, the finals series being the third time between the two teams makes it all the more interesting and engaging.
“This will be very interesting because both teams have a bunch of new characters to their rivalry. We cannot discount the value of Stanley Pringle of Barangay Ginebra in the grand scheme of things. He is looking for his first ring after all. Meralco’s Bong Quinto had a stellar end during the semifinals and that’s a lot of confidence gained for a rookie,” said Mr. Lovenia in an interview.
Mr. Pringle has been a force for the powerhouse Kings since being acquired last conference from Northport while Mr. Quinto played a huge role in the Bolts beating TNT in the semifinals. The latter is one of a number of players, the others being Raymond Almazan and Allein Maliksi, that Meralco hopes could help them in their PBA finals return.
Mr. Lovenia sees the series as a battle of contrasting styles — offense versus defense — leaving execution as truly key.
“The key will be execution, especially on defense. Ginebra looks like the heavy favorites because of their firepower but we cannot discount how impressive Meralco’s defense has been,” he said.
Considering the road they took to the finals, Mr. Lovenia said he likes the chances of the Bolts finally breaking through albeit it would not be easy.
“Third time’s a charm. Meralco looks more tested after beating a TNT team many projected to make it to the Finals over them. That type of challenge matters a lot as they’ve built momentum and trust with one another,” he said.
“It will be likely that this series reaches seven games. Both teams know each other very well, but there will be some surprises with the newcomers,” Mr. Lovenia added.
Following Game One today, the Governors’ Cup finals series goes on the road for Game Two in Lucena City on Friday, Jan. 10.
Games 3 and 4 will be back at the Big Dome while Game Five will be played at the Mall of Asia Arena.
If necessary, Games Six and Seven will be at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.