by Tito S. Talao
Games Today (Smart Araneta)
3 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Barako Bull
5:15 p.m. – Barangay Ginebra vs SmBeer
All roads lead to the Smart Araneta Coliseum today when Barangay Ginebra San Miguel battles San Miguel Beer in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup in a showdown of crowd favorites.
Both the Kings, behind Leon Rodgers, and the Beermen, powered by Josh Boone, are coming off character-defining wins Friday, with Ginebra turning back tenacious Barako Bull, 108-104, in overtime, and San Miguel routing Meralco, 94-76.
In the curtainraiser, Rain or Shine, debuting after falling to San Mig Super Coffee in six games in the Philippine Cup Finals, faces Barako Bull at 3 p.m.
Ongoing at presstime in the Petron Saturday Special at the Cuneta Astrodome are the games pitting Globalport against defending champion Alaska and Talk ‘N Text against Air21.
As much-anticipated as the Kings-Beermen encounter is, the again aborted clash of the titans between SMB’s June Mar Fajardo and Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter somewhat dims the glow.
Fajardo twisted his left ankle during team practice a few days ago and sat out the Bolts game although he was in uniform.
“It’s still swollen and he’s day-to-day,” said SMB consultant Todd Purves.
Last conference, a groin injury suffered by Fajardo – again in practice – denied PBA fans the chance to watch the two big men going after each other.
Now the waiting gets even longer as Fajardo remains a doubtful starter this afternoon.
The winner gets to share leadership with the victor of the Air21-Talk ‘N Text game.
Barako Bull, meanwhile, hopes to put behind what could have been against Ginebra when two costly late-game lapses by import Joshua Dollard, who unloaded 45 points with 18 rebounds, denied them a monumental upset.
But Rain or Shine is not a team looking to relieved anguished feelings, having gone through a hellish experience in the last conference finals where a “partial walkout” in Game 6 against San Mig Super Coffee cost the franchise a P2 million fine.
With both teams prime disciples of rugged basketball, their encounter is expected to be heavily physical and bruising.
GINEBRA 108 – Rodgers 31, Ellis 17, Aguilar 14, Slaughter 12, Caguioa 12, Tenorio 9, Reyes 8, Mamaril 3, Urbiztondo 2, Baracael 0, Monfort 0.
BARAKO 104 – Dollard 45, Pennisi 12, Lastimosa 10, Intal 7, Miranda 7, Wilson 6, Buenafe 6, Jensen 5, Fortuna 5, Pena 1, Deutchman 0, Isip 0, Miller 0, Marcelo 0.
Quarters: 22-23, 51-52, 73-70, 93-93 (reg), 108-104 (OT)