Ginebra intensifies its title retention bid when it battles rival Magnolia in Game 1 of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup best-of-five semi-final series today at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City.
Action kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with the Kings looking to draw first blood to boost their chance for another finals appearance in this season-ending conference, which they have been winning for the past two years.
Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals, Ginebra made quick work of NLEX with a huge 111-75 win last Tuesday to arrange a race-to-three semis duel with Magnolia.
Despite the easy quarterfinal win, head coach Tim Cone reminded his wards to remain focused on their mission.
“We got Magnolia next. It’s Manila Clasico. It’s always an incredible series. It’s going to be a tough one for us, as we know,” said Cone.
“We definitely have our things to worry about against them.”
Ginebra outclassed Magnolia in the elimination round, 93-86, but Cone expects their battle to be furious, knowing that the backcourt juggernaut of Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca would play a major role in this series.
“Their guards are so quick. It can be very frustrating to play against that kind of style,” he said.
“They will be our big challenges.”
Fortunately for Cone, he has the edge in the frontcourt matchup with twin towers Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar manning the paint to lessen the load on import Justin Brownlee.
“I think we’re getting a little bit better in terms of not having to be too much Justin-reliant. We’re playing well and I hope we can sustain that in the semis,” he said.
The Hotshots, however, will not just roll over and die especially after also taking care of business in the quarterfinals with a close 103-99 win over Blackwater for a good springboard heading into their semis duel.
“After missing the Final Four in the Commissioner’s Cup, we’re happy to be back. It’s nice to be back in the semis but this is not our end goal yet, “ said head coach Chito Victolero, who is looking to tow Magnolia to another finals stint after making it to the championship of the Philippine Cup early this year.
Helping Victolero achieve that dream is import Romeo Travis with Lee, Jalalon and Barroca providing support together with Ian Sangalang and Rafi Reavis.