Games Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. — Phoenix vs TNT
5:45 p.m. — Magnolia vs Meralco

LIKE fellow top tier teams San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra before them, it’s the intention of No. 1 TNT and No. 4 Meralco to take the short route to the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals.

“That’s the grand plan,” Tropang Giga mentor Jojo Lastimosa said ahead of today’s quarterfinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Mr. Lastimosa’s streaking troops seek to cash in on their win-once incentive against No. 8 Phoenix at 3 p.m. while the Bolts eye the clincher against No. 5 Magnolia at 5:45 p.m.

If successful, TNT and Meralco set themselves up for an explosive best-of-five dispute for a finals seat similar to the one they engaged in back in the 2019 edition. That previous semis confrontation reached the full route before the Bolts prevailed.

The two MVP Group teams go for their own blitz three days after No. 2 San Miguel Beer and No. 3 Ginebra made quick work of their lower-ranked quarters opponents, Converge (121-105) and import-less NLEX (127-93), respectively.

Bannering TNT’s quest for glory is the efficient Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who is personally fueled by an intense desire to bring home the crown.

“I told coach Jojo and the players that I haven’t won a pro championship so the desire, the determination to do that has kept me in the zone,” said Mr. Hollis-Jefferson, who leads the stats race for Best Import award after the eliminations.

Backing up the former NBA player are current and former Gilas Pilipinas mainstays such as RR Pogoy, Calvin Oftana, Jayson Castro and Kelly Williams as well as Fil-Am hotshot Mikey Williams. Poy Erram is also expected to return to active duty after undergoing knee procedure prior to the conference.

Though enjoying the edge in firepower and depth and riding a hot eight-game streak, TNT is not in any way taking the Fuel Masters crew of Du’Vaughn Maxwell, Jason Perkins, RJ Jazul, Tyler Tio, Encho Serrano lightly.

“It’s always their defense,” Mr. Lastimosa said of Jamike Jarin’s youthful but tough charges. They try to make you uncomfortable by playing their defense.”

Meanwhile, the Bolts are bent on making the most of the twice-to-beat advantage that they gratefully received when SMB handed NLEX a 120-106 defeat in the final game of the eliminations.

This led to a three-way tie for No. 4 among Meralco, Magnolia and NLEX at 7-4 with the Bolts emerging on top due to superior tiebreak points. — Olmin Leyba