MANILA, Philippines – One last playoffs for the 2016 PBA season: the 2016 Governors’ Cup quarterfinals kick off Friday, September 23, with San Miguel Beer (twice-to-beat) taking on NLEX at 4:15 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, followed by Barangay Ginebra (twice-to-beat) facing Alaska at 7 pm.
The Beermen, toting their comebacking import Elijah Millsap, and the Gin Kings, who will be without 7-footer Greg Slaughter, will be looking to finish off their respective foes right away to set up a best-of-5 semifinals clash.
On Saturday, September 24, the games move to the Ynares Center in Antipolo with Meralco (twice-to-beat) locking horns with Mahindra at 3 pm, while TNT (twice-to-beat) and Phoenix tussle at 5:15 pm.
Rappler answers questions surrounding some of the narratives for each team with either a “yay” or a “nay” in an effort to predict how the playoffs will go.
1. Will TNT assert its dominance and blow by the playoffs all the way to the championship?
Naveen Ganglani: Nay. I see TNT as the favorite entering the playoffs to win the title, but I see Phoenix and Meralco/Mahindra as a challenge. On the other bracket, San Miguel and Ginebra obviously need no introduction as title contenders this conference, while Alaska is rolling at the right time. So while TNT is the sexy pick to win the championship because of how great they’ve looked, the road getting there will be tough. They still, however, should be considered the favorite in every series.
Jane Bracher: Nay. TNT dropped only one game in the eliminations and has been putting on a clinic for the most part with its precision basketball, but they will be significantly challenged. There’s a good chance they may blow by the playoffs but a very eager Phoenix will look to push them and so will either Meralco or Mahindra. To me it’s looking like a San Miguel-TNT finals and the championship version of the Beermen will be that heavyweight test for them.
2. Is Elijah Millsap’s late entry detrimental to San Miguel Beer?
Naveen: Yay. I’m a big fan on continuity. I get why San Miguel felt it had to make the change, but this late in the conference? I’m not in favor of it. Of course, Millsap clearly has the talent to quickly prove me otherwise. Although until then, I’m not sold.
Jane: Nay. And that’s largely because San Miguel is such a strong all-Filipino team and they can win games without an import. A reinforcement for them is more of a boost or an additional gear rather than a guy that plugs holes like it is for most other teams. But also, Millsap isn’t a complete stranger to the Beermen and the league since he played for the franchise (then Petron) in 2013.
3. Can Barangay Ginebra finally break through to the semifinals and go all the way to the finals?
Naveen: Yay. Even before Greg Slaughter’s short-lived return, Ginebra was easily making noise as an elite team. Justin Brownlee has been great for Coach Tim Cone’s system, and I can’t remember the last time Japeth Aguilar played this well of a conference. Mix those with the Gin King’s strong defense, and it’s the best they’ve looked all season.
Jane: Nay. There’s a strong likelihood it’ll be a Ginebra-San Miguel semifinals matchup. With big man Greg Slaughter out with an injury for almost the entire conference, Ginebra has been able to thrive off its running game. But if they are to face June Mar Fajardo and San Miguel, running might not take them all the way. That’s what Alaska tried to do in several Finals meetings after all, and it didn’t turn out so good.
4. Are the young legs of Chris Newsome and Baser Amer ready to carry Meralco all the way to the finals?
Naveen: Nay. I see the Bolts beating the Enforcers, but TNT in the semis? Not so much. Amer and Newsome will be really good PBA players in the upcoming years. They’re also pretty good now. But I just don’t see a finals run in store for Meralco.
Jane: Nay. Meralco can and is likely to make it to the semifinals again this conference, but TNT will be too much for them. That added experience, however, will make those guys much better for next season, where they can hopefully breach the Finals.
5. Does this young but gutsy Mahindra team have what it takes to reach the semis?
Naveen: Yay. Can they advance? Of course. Will they? I’m not too sure. Losers of 4 straight, Mahindra is no longer taking PBA teams by surprise and the system is getting figured out. I’m happy that the franchise has finally made the postseason, but I still see the Bolts winning the series.
Jane: Nay. I would’ve said yay a few weeks back but not right now. They blew 4 straight chances at clinching the twice-to-beat and for the better part crumbled towards the end. They surprised the league early on but lack of experience is showing at this point.
6. After starting the conference at 1-3, is Alaska peaking at the right time with 4 straight elimination round wins?
Naveen: Yay. First, the return of Vic Manuel will be huge for the team entering the playoffs. Next, in its last 4 games, Alaska has held its opponents under 90 points thrice while scoring above 100 in every game. It may have been a little late, but the championship contender form of the Aces is finally showing up.
Jane: Yay. Unlike Mahindra, which had a strong start but a bad finish, Alaska is finally getting its bearings and gaining some much-needed momentum. The Aces, though under the radar because of their struggles this conference, can be dangerous for Ginebra.
7. In the last 4 conferences, NLEX lost 4 straight close matches to San Miguel Beer, including one triple overtime contest and one overtime game. Can NLEX finally break its losing streak to San Miguel when they meet in the quarterfinals?
Naveen: Nay. I think San Miguel is too deep and too good in the playoffs to lose to NLEX. I do think the Road Warriors have the tools to give another competitive game, but the team is too inconsistent for me to confidently say it can win a game.
Jane: Nay. Though NLEX has proven it can push San Miguel to the limit, the Beermen in the playoffs is somewhat of a different beast and it will likely be too much to handle for the Road Warriors.
8. Can Phoenix, with its breakthrough quarterfinals appearance and import Eugene Phelps at the frontline, pull off a massive upset against the streaking TNT?
Naveen: Nay. Phelps has been my favorite import this season. He’s a throwback to the old-school big men with legit post moves and a solid mid-range jumper. I have also enjoyed how much the team has improved under its new head coach. But, as I said earlier, TNT is the sexy pic and there are reasons for that. They’re deep, well-coached, and experienced. Expect Ka Tropa to advance.
Jane: Nay. It’s definitely a good thing that Phoenix made it to the quarterfinals at just the franchise’s second conference, and at the expense of a champion team like Rain or Shine at that. But they’re still too shaky for me and that can never be the case when you’re facing a fired up TNT with a twice-to-win disadvantage. I think Phoenix goes home after the first game but not after a good fight with Phelps leading the way and plenty of experience in their pockets.
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