THE quarterfinal phase of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup resumes on Wednesday with the top two teams TnT Tropang Giga and Meralco Bolts gunning for outright semifinal spots against different opponents.
Holders of the twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals, TnT and Meralco try to advance to the next round of the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association tournament at the first instance.
Top-seeds Tropang Giga take on the number eight team and defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in the scheduled 6 p.m. contest at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Meralco, the second seed, collides with NLEX (seventh) in the earlier game set for 3 p.m.
Chot Reyes-coached TnT has been a steady force in the Philippine Cup, losing only one game out of 11 matches to claim the top spot.
Heading into the playoffs, the team is fresh, having at least a week break since it last took the floor in the eliminations.
It is something the Tropang Giga were looking to capitalize on, particularly in shoring up their game plan.
“There are areas that we wanted to shore up. There are still some lapses on defense. We’re trying to consistently upgrade our defense as well as our execution on offense. You know those are little things,” said Mr. Reyes. The TnT coach also said that they would take the break as an opportunity to get everyone healthy and ready for battle.
Barangay Ginebra, meanwhile, had to go through overdrive and played the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters in a one-game playoff for the eighth and final quarterfinal spot.
While the Kings are happy to have survived and advanced, they know that a far bigger challenge awaits them against TnT.
“They (Tropang Giga) are playing extremely good basketball. They’ve hardly been touched,” said Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
“Aside from that, they pretty much dominated just about everybody. We know our road is tough, there is no doubt about it. But our guys will battle,” he added.
In their lone encounter in the elimination round on Sept. 12, TnT defeated Barangay Ginebra, 88-67.
MERALCO VS NLEX
Meralco, for its part, was on a roll heading to the quarterfinals, winning four straight to finish with a 9-2 record and claim solo second spot.
“We really just want to have the momentum going into the playoffs,” said Bolts coach Norman Black following their last win in the eliminations over Barangay Ginebra on Sept. 23.
Meralco is now bracing for a tough challenge from NLEX, which the former considers “dangerous” and capable of beating any team anytime.
In their previous encounter, the Bolts had to dig deep to beat the Road Warriors, 104-101. NLEX is missing the services of key cog Kiefer Ravena late in the tournament.
Meanwhile, San Miguel’s CJ Perez was named PBA player of the week for the period of Sept. 22 to 26.
The former rookie of the year and two-time scoring champ averaged 17 points on 44% clip from three-point range, six rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals in the Beermen’s last two wins.
Mr. Perez beat out teammates Mo Tautuaa, six-time most valuable player June Mar Fajardo, and Chris Ross, Meralco’s Mac Belo, Alvin Pasaol, Allein Maliksi, and Bong Quinto for the weekly honors handed out by media covering the PBA beat. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo