MANILA, Philippines – The Tropang Texters humbled the Ginebra Gin Kings in their KO match, and now coach Jong Uichico’s wards are going up against a familiar foe for the right to advance to the championship series. On the other end, we have top eliminations team San Miguel Beer wanting to reclaim the All-Filipino title it last held more than a decade ago. The Beermen have had the privilege of having the last two PBA MVPs, but they haven’t won a conference crown since the 2011 Governors’ Cup.
- Both of these teams are thirsty to claim the Philippine Cup title.
- SMB last won a title in the 2011 Governors’ Cup, beating TNT in 7 games, but the franchise last won an All-Filipino title way back in 2001, while TNT last won it in 2013.
- TNT has been one of the most dominant All-Filipino teams in recent memory, claiming 4 of the last 6 titles, but they lost unceremoniously in the quarterfinals last season, and they want to redeem themselves.
The Beermen are coming off a long lay-off.
- The Beermen finished at the top of the eliminations after 11 games, winning 9 games against only 2 losses.
- They earned an automatic spot in the semifinals, but the flipside is they haven’t played in more than a week.
- The last game they played was against the Blackwater Elite on December 9, and that begs one question: Are they going to come out hungry or rusty?
Return to sender: Alex Cabagnot is a Beerman again.
- After about four seasons with San Miguel Beer/Petron, Alex Cabagnot was traded last season to the GlobalPort Batang Pier. His stats while in GlobalPort have been some of his career’s finest, which probably prompted SMB to get him back.
- The question is how much of an adjustment will Cabagnot have to make returning to the team that shipped him out in the first place? How will he be able to fit in with the current players and the current system? It’s all up in the air.
Alex Cabagnot’s current stats: 15.3ppg, 7.4rpg, 5.0apg, 1.1spg, 2.5 triples per game, 38.5 3pt%.
Is June Mar Fajardo ready to really take over?
- One guy whom the Beermen can definitely count on, though, is none other than leading BPC candidate and reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo, who has been on a tear for San Miguel.
- After a successful stint with Gilas, it seems Fajardo has become even better than he was last year, and he’s seeking something he has yet to win — a PBA title.
June Mar Fajardo’s current stats: 18.6ppg, 12.8rpg, 1.5apg, 2.3bpg, 57.2 FG%.
Can TNT’s rising rookies make an impact?
- On the other end, coach Jong Unichico and the rest of TNT will rely heavily on two rookies who have been playing big – Matt Rosser and Kevin Alas.
- Both guys have been providing a lot of energy on both ends of the floor, and both have been effective in fulfilling their roles as sparks in the perimeter.
- When either or both of these guys are on-target, then TNT will have a strong chance in Game 1.
Their current stats:
Matt Rosser stats: 9.1ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.2apg, 1.4bpg
Kevin Alas stats: 8.6ppg, 1.8rpg, 1.8apg, 1.1 triples per game, 42.4 3pt%
Last game against Ginebra:
Rosser: 13pts, 4rebs, 3stls, 4blks
Alas: 8pts, 4asts, 4/6 FGs
Nobody can catch Jayson Castro.
- The spearhead for TNT, however, will still be Asia’s top point guard, Jayson Castro.
- Castro has been close to his best this season so far, finding different ways to score while also affecting the game in a big way on defense.
- He is the undisputed leader of TNT right now, and if he can get his game going, any of the Beermen will have a really difficult time stopping him.
Jayson Castro’s current stats: 15.6ppg, 3.7rpg, 4.4apg, 1.2spg, 1.7 triples per game, 35.5 3pt%
Last game vs Ginebra: 23pts, 4asts, 2stls, 2 triples, 50.0 FG%
Here come the ex-Beermen/Boosters: Danny Seigle, Jong Uichico, Jay Washington, and Rob Reyes
- What’s the common thing among current Texters Danny Seigle, Jay Washington, Rob Reyes, and head coach Jong Uichico? All of them were, at one point or another, major cogs in the San Miguel/Petron machinery.
- This is the first time all those former Beermen/Boosters will face their former team together in the conference semifinals, so it’ll be interesting to see how this added motivation will fuel their games.
Danny Seigle: 4.4ppg, 3.2rpg
Jay Washington: 9.7ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.1apg, 1.1bpg, 1.5 triples per game
Rob Reyes: 5.5ppg, 4.1rpg, 53.1 FG%
Will LUTZSSITER come to play?
- As for SMB, two big x-factors for them will be the “twin wings” Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter.
- The two former Gilas wingmen are expected to play major roles in the Beermen’s championship push, and if both can do damage from long range and also cripple the opposing wingmen from TNT, then SMB should be in good shape.
Chris Lutz: 10.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 3.8apg,
Marcio Lassiter: 11.1ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.0apg, 1.9 triples per game
Veterans Larry Fonacier & Kelly Williams have to step up.
- As for TNT, two guys who will really need to step up are former Gilas guys LArry Fonacier and Kelly Williams.
- Kelly has been solid as the makeshift center for TNT this season, but Larry has seen a dip in his game ever since returning from his stint with Gilas in 2013.
- If both Kelly and Larry can rediscover their old forms, then the odds will be stacked in TNT’s favor.
Kelly Williams: 9.9ppg, 7.1rpg, 50.8 FG%
Larry Fonacier: 6.8ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.9apg, 29.4 3pt%
TNT dominated in their previous meeting.
- In the previous meeting between these two teams, it was TNT that prevailed, but not after enduring a strong first half from the Beermen, who led at the break, 55-48.
- The Texters rallied in the last two periods, though, and took the win, 107-101.
- Chris Lutz erupted for a season-high 25pts in that game, but the Beermen were plagued by turnovers and poor defensive rotation that led to 27 TNT assists.
- Former SMB/Petron player J-Wash topped the scoring for TNT along with Jayson Castro. Both guys dropped 19 points to push the Texters to the big win. Washington hit 3 triples in this game, while Castro handed out 12 assists.
- Former SMB/Petron players Danny Seigle and Rob Reyes also did well, pairing up for 23 points, 5 boards, and a combined 10/12 FG shooting.
KEY MATCH-UP: ARWIND SANTOS vs RANIDEL DE OCAMPO
- Perhaps the most keenly-watched match-up in this game, though, will be this one pitting arguably the two top power forwards in the league – Arwind Santos and Ranidel De Ocampo.
- Both are classified as stretch-forwards — power forwards who can mix it up inside while also hit the three ball to spread the floor.
- On paper, they should cancel each other out, but RDO has the added motivation to redeem himself after he shot poorly against Arwind in their previous game.
Santos: 15.2ppg, 8.1rpg, 1.9apg, 1.6bpg, 1.8 triples per game, 36.4 3pt%
RDO: 11.9ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.3apg, 1.7 triples per game, 36.4 3pt%
Last Game between SMB vs TNT:
Santos: 16pts, 12rebs, 2asts, 1stl, 1blk, 3 triples, 5/14FGs
RDO: 8pts, 7rebs, 5asts, 2blks, 1stl, 2 triples, 2/6 FGs
Prediction: TNT will come out firing, while SMB will adjust to the long rest and having Cabagnot back. TNT takes the series in 6 games.
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