(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
The semifinal round will feature two exciting series
And just like that, the quarterfinals are over.
4 teams are off to an early break while the remaining 4 will square off for the two slots in the PBA Finals. Let's do a rundown for each of the semifinal series which will kick off tomorrow evening.
San Miguel Beermen versus Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings
The last time these two squads met in the playoffs, it was during last season's quarterfinals of the Governors Cup when the Gin Kings had the twice-to-beat advantage over the Grand Slam-seeking Beermen. Ultimately, the Gin Kings prevailed, eliminating San Miguel in just one game.
And frankly, this is one match-up that everyone expected to see in the Finals of the Philippine Cup considering the fact that both have the strongest frontline powers in the all-Filipino conference. But then, who are we to complain about seeing them going head-to-head in the semifinals?
Looking back in their encounter during the elimination phase, it was Ginebra who actually came out victorious against a heavily-favored San Miguel squad. Greg Slaughter didn't play in that game but it was Raymond Aguilar who helped Ginebra shut down June Mar Fajardo in the second half to lead Ginebra to an upset victory.
Unfortunately, Ginebra may have to hope that the rest of the team will be ready come tomorrow's Game 1 of the best-of-7 series because Greg Slaughter is still listed as doubtful to even start for tomorrow's game. While Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson have played well during their quarterfinals sweep of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, it's the Beermen that they will be playing against this time around so frankly speaking, beating a complete San Miguel team will require an equally healthy and complete Ginebra team. Sure, Joe Devance is back in action but he isn't 100% just yet.
Prediction: SMB in 6 games
Magnolia Hotshots versus NLEX Road Warriors
If there's one thing that enabled the NLEX Road Warriors to make it to the semifinals for the first time in franchise history, it's the deadly backcourt duo of Kevin Alas and super rookie, Kiefer Ravena. Both guards did their job against the Alaska Aces back in their quarterfinals series. Now in the semifinals, Kiefer Ravena and company will be facing off against the second-best team in the Philippine Cup: the Magnolia Hotshots.
To begin with, this is something that we didn't expect from the Hotshots who entered the new season by missing their key players who are dealing with their respective injuries. Fortunately, all of those pieces have returned and helped Paul Lee and company to a second place finish to the elimination phase. Now here's the problem: the Purefoods franchise hasn't won a semifinal series in a long while, making people question the team's capability to challenge for a championship. But then, who knows? This might be the conference when Mark Barroca and the rest of the Hotshots will finally learn their lessons.
Prediction: NLEX in 6 games- Why? Kiefer Ravena is why unless Chito Victolero will find a way to limit the Phenom's outburst.