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PBA: Ginebra battles Star

GUARD Justin Melton of Star, seen here sdriving against Sol Mercado (3) and Mark Caguioa (47) of Ginebra, needs to play better than the way he performed in their elimination round victory against the Gin Kings where he went 0-for-5 from the 3-point area. (Ernie Sarmiento)

GUARD Justin Melton of Star, seen here sdriving against Sol Mercado (3) and Mark Caguioa (47) of Ginebra, needs to play better than the way he performed in their elimination round victory against the Gin Kings where he went 0-for-5 from the 3-point area. (Ernie Sarmiento)

Games Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
4:15 p.m. – Globalport (5) vs Barako Bull (8)
7 p.m. – Star (9) vs Brgy. Ginebra (4)

Games Tomorrow (Mall of Asia Arena)
3 p.m. – Rain or Shine(3) vs Blackwater (10)
5:15 p.m. – TNT (6) vs NLEX (7)

Note: No. 3 to No. 6 teams twice-to-beat in playoffs

Barako Bull and the Star Hotshots hope to serenade PBA fans today with “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” for the right reasons.

This as Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Globalport lurk around the Mall of Asia Arena playing the roles of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch, two literary characters who abhor Christmas and everything it represents.

Armed with twice-to-beat advantage, Barangay Ginebra and Globalport look to send their respective playoff opponents packing when the two-phase quarterfinals in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup kick off amid festive atmosphere and the spirit of sharing.

No . 5 Globalport takes on No. 8 Barako Bull at 4:15 p.m., while No. 4 Barangay Ginebra faces No. 7 Star in a Manila Clasico encounter at 7 p.m. Victories by the Batang Pier and Kings will set up a knockout between them for a seat in the best-of-7 semifinals where Alaska and defending champion San Miguel Beer have qualified outright as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams after the elimination. The Energy and Hotshots, on the other hand, can force do-or-dies should they prevail.

If the elimination round will be the gauge, Barako Bull and Star are in for a blue Christmas, both having been the recipients of sound beatings.

Globalport thrashed Barako Bull in overtime, 105-91, on Nov. 8, while Star, in its first game against former coach Tim Cone, crushed Barangay Ginebra, 86-78, after leading by 31 points on Oct. 25.

Neither Globalport nor Barangay Ginebra is taking anything for granted, however.

“Going to the playoffs, kailangan matibay kami, nagtutulungan para maganda ang takbo,” said Globalport coach Pido Jarencio after the Batang Pier secured a playoff spot by beating Mahindra in overtime, 118-116, more than a week ago.

For Cone, facing his former team is nothing like finding presents under the Christmas tree.

“I’m not looking forward to it all because a Christmas Day game is always difficult with so many distractions,” said the two-time Grand Slam champion who took over the Kings during the off-season. “But they’re a team in our way and we’re in their way so both of us gotta go out there and win.”

Barangay Ginebra has two chances to dim Star’s light, but Cone refuses to consider going through a sudden death against his former players.

“They know what being in the playoffs requires, and they know how to get ready and get the job done,” Cone said. “Of all the teams out there, I think they’re the toughest because they’re veterans. Sure, twice to beat is an advantage, but if you lose that first game, then there’s a lot of pressure to win the second one.”

Jason Webb, the former De La Salle star and Star assistant coach who took over after Cone left, believes Ginebra holds the upper hand but vows to go down fighting.

“We know we’re the underdog at this point, but at least we still got a fighting chance. And for us, we’ll take whatever chances that will come our way,” he said. “I think the key for us is to control the pace of the game. We’ll be able to do that if we are able to compete in rebounding, that way we can use our speed and run to compensate for our lack of size.”

In their elimination round meeting, Star bombed Ginebra without letup, roaring to a 37-13 first quarter lead on the way to a 44-13 advantage. Unfamiliar with the triangle offense, the Kings came apart as the Hotshots, running with every opportunity, left them in shambles.

Ginebra won the battle of the boards though, 53-46, even as Star equalized in fast break points, 18-11, while dominating the bench scoring, 42-15.

Webb warned, however, that the Ginebra team they will be facing in the playoffs is vastly different from the one they ran roughshod over in the elims, an admonition the Hotshots might want to take to the heart to avert a long, silent night.

“The first time that we met that was a team that was still figuring out how to play together,” Webb told PBA.ph. “ Now, they’re already on a different level since they’ve already figured out a way to win.”

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