GAMES TODAY (MOA Arena)
3 p.m. – Ginebra vs. NLEX (Semis, Game 2)
6 p.m. – Magnolia vs. Meralco (Semis, Game 2)
*Hotshots, Gin Kings lead best-of-five series, 1-0
FIRST blood drawn, defending champion Barangay Ginebra and top seed Magnolia quickly reload for a second strike that will push them into the doorstep of the 46th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup title play.
The Gin Kings, who outdueled NLEX in the opener of the best-of-five semifinal series last Wednesday, 95-86, seek a repeat in Game 2 at 3 p.m. while the Hotshots, 94-80 winner over Meralco, eye a commanding 2-0 lead at 6 p.m.
The semis pacesetters can expect a hard fightback from their respective opponents, who are plotting to get on even terms or else fall into a deep hole in the short race-to-three dispute.
“It’s important we put up a better fight,” said NLEX skipper Kevin Alas after the Road Warriors squandered a 16-point lead and faded in the stretch of Game 1.
Ginebra took care of business in Game 1 despite ace slotman Japeth Aguilar going down with a calf injury.
Coach Tim Cone said Mr. Aguilar’s injury dampened the victory and may have jeopardized his availability for the second match. But with or without Mr. Aguilar, the crowd darlings are pumped to continue their reten-tion bid.
“The thing with injuries, from a coaching standpoint and even from a team standpoint, you can only feel bad about it for 10 minutes and you move on because it’s a team sport. There are other guys who can step up and fill the role. You just gotta put these guys in a position to play their best basketball,” he said.
For Magnolia, one major focus, aside from executing their stifling defensive schemes to precision, is to get a strong start against Meralco. In the series kickoff, the Hotshots needed to overhaul an early 17-point deficit before taking the W, a situation that mirrored their 88-85 comeback win back in the eliminations.
“We need to address this problem,” said Hotshots mentor Chito Victolero.
Main target of Magnolia’s defense is still Meralco import Tony Bishop, who, for sure, is intent on making up for his meager 10-point outing the other day.
At the same time, Mr. Victolero’s guards should be at their sharpest, too, against Meralco’s local gunners like Chris Newsome, Allein Maliksi and Chris Banchero, who combined for 31 last time.