MANILA, Philppines - Win or go home.
Air21 Express and Petron Blaze Boosters will be fighting for survival against the two best teams in the PBA Philippine Cup. Can any of the two repeat what Powerade did last year and make a magical run to the Finals?
Will Talk 'N Text and SanMig Coffee continue their strong play or will complacency get the best of them?
Let's take a look at how these teams stack up against each other.
SanMig Coffee vs Petron Blaze
Game1: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 7:30 PM
Game 2: (If necessary) Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 5:15 PM
Who is going to guard James Yap and/or Peter June Simon? Petron Blaze's biggest headache is limiting the production of SanMig Coffee's two most potent scorers.
While the Boosters' guards are no pushovers on offense, they're not exactly defensive stoppers. Sophomore Chris Lutz, who has been the most consistent Booster next to Arwind Santos, will probably be assigned to defend Yap but focusing on defense can take a toll on his offense.
Another player that could cause problems for the Boosters is Joe Devance. The versatile wingman has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the elimination round. At 6'7" he often plays the point-forward role and causes match-up problems for the opposing team.
Petron's wings will not be outdone however. Led by two former Smart-Gilas Pilipinas standouts Chris Lutz, who plays guard/forward, and Marcio Lassiter, the Boosters have more than enough firepower to contend with the Mixers.
However, the question remains, can they guard the taller wings of the SanMig Coffee?
Perhaps some of the most interesting battles in this series will happen in the paint.
2012 top overall pick JuneMar Fajardo, who stands tall at 6'10" will find himself matched-up against 6'9" Yancy De Ocampo.
The Boosters have not been able to take full advantage of Fajardo opting to sit him down when opposing teams choose a smaller, faster, frontcourt. But with an equally tall line-up, we're hoping to see more of Fajardo battling for boards late in the game than warming the bench.
Another interesting match-up is between power forwards Marc Pingris and double-double machine Arwind Santos. The two wiry forwards are rebounding masters and do not back down in physical play. Pingris will give his team the usual spunk and energy while Santos is expected to deliver the points, the boards and other intangibles. Look for both to negate each other.
A key factor will probably be the game of forward Anthony Washington. He has been the subject of trade rumors because people feel he cannot co-exist with Santos, who plays the same position as he does. If a passionate Washington shows up, Petron has a chance, but if he doesn't unleash his competitive fire, Petron could be out of the playoffs after one game.
The Petron Blaze Boosters was one of the favorites coming into the season. With their roster full of stars, they were expected to dominate. However, their strength on paper hasn't fully translated onto the basketball court.
They need to beat SanMig Coffee twice to advance to the semifinals and if some of the players fail to understand their roles, their Philippine Cup campaign will be over sooner than they want too. SanMig Coffee is too talented and disciplined to let to games slide.
Although Petron is always dangerous, we see SanMig Coffee coming out on top in this battle.
Talk 'N Text vs Air21
Game 1: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 5:15 PM
Game 2: (If necessary) Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 7:30 PM
Air 21's Mike Cortez will be taking on the likes of Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, and Ryan Reyes. He will need help. Winnie Arboleda has to pick up his defense and John Wilson needs to rediscover his shooting touch to be competitive against the stacked Talk 'N Text backcourt.
An added threat? The Tropang Texters will have the sharpshooting babyface assassin Larry Fonacier. Air21 will surely have its hands full.
It's another must-win game for Air21. KG Canaleta, who recently dropped a career-high 41 points, has to be just as effective if they hope to pull-off an upset. While the 5-time slam dunk champ has the tools to score in a variety of ways, he will be facing a much tighter and more disciplined offense.
Air21 needs to work hard to give Canaleta plenty of touches inside and outside to get him going.
Ali Peek has been an ageless warrior for the Texters and they have more weapons - like Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo - than the Air21 frontline can handle.
Air21 will lean on JR Sena and Mark Isip for some offense down low but it's Rob Reyes and Noy Baclao's defense that will have to be a notch higher if they hope to upset the defending champions.
This could be over soon. Talk 'N Text is running like a well-oiled machine and have no holes in their roster. It will be a monumental shocker if they don't advance to the next round.
Do you think these games will end today or will the cellar dwellers live to fight another day? Let us know in the comments below.
You may also read our breakdown of the best-of-three matches: Ginebra vs Rain or Shine and Alaska vs Meralco. - Rappler.com