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PBA: San Miguel, Ginebra eye semifinal berths

Games Today
(Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – San Miguel vs NLEX
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Alaska
Games Tomorrow
(Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
3 p.m. – Mahindra vs Meralco
5:15 p.m. – TNT Katropa vs Phoenix

NLEX, Alaska look to force sudden death.

With three titles in the last five conferences, there’s no doubt San Miguel Beer has moved on from a disappointing campaign back in 2013 when the Beermen came a win short of winning the PBA Governors’ Cup.

Yet with the return of import Elijah Millsap in this season-ending conference, everything seemed to return – the pain and anguish of defeat – and SMB is eager to settle an old issue.

That is what Arwind Santos sees as San Miguel now has an opportunity to win a championship with Millsap and retain the title as the No. 2 seed Beermen collide with seventh seed NLEX Road Warriors in the quarterfinals today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Nakikita ko na magandang opportunity ito para sa team namin,” said Santos yesterday prior to the team’s morning practice session at the Acropolis Gym in Quezon City.

“Opportunity namin ito para makabawi dun sa naging pagka-talo nung kasama namin si Elijah. Hopefully makuha namin ngayon na si Elijah yung makakatulong namin,” added Santos.

The game between San Miguel and NLEX is scheduled at 4:15 p.m., before No. 3 Barangay Ginebra San Miguel takes on No. 6 Alaska at 7 p.m. Both the Beermen and Kings carry twice-to-beat incentives.

Then known as the Petron Blaze Boosters, the team of coach Gee Abanilla suffered a painful 87-77 defeat to San Mig Super Coffee – now the Star Hotshots – in Game 7 of the Finals.

Under coach Leo Austria, SMB, however, has been a dominant force in the PBA, winning three championships in the last five conferences including last season’s Governors’ Cup with import AZ Reid.

The former two-time Best Import winner Reid returned this conference but lasted just a few games due to injuries. The team tabbed Mike Singletary as temporary reinforcement, then finally settled with Millsap, younger brother of Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap.

The younger Millsap, who played for the Utah Jazz in 2014 and 2015, had his first game last Sunday and collected 25 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out in a 107-101 win against Blackwater.

Santos said he knows Millsap can still improve from that performance, especially now that the stakes are higher as they are facing a tough NLEX team, which they downed in a closely fought encounter with Marcio Lassiter nailing a game-winning three-pointer for a 94-93 win last July 22.

“Sa system naman ng team konting adjustment lang ang kailangan ni Elijah,” said Santos. “Ang tingin ko nangangapa siya sa tawagan ng referees kasi iba noong 2013 sa ngayon e; mas mahigpit.”

“Pero tingin ko naman marami pa siyang pwedeng maibigay sa team. Dapat lang tulung-tulong kami, mag-step up din dapat ang mga locals kasi hindi madaling kalaban ang NLEX,” added Santos, who was among the teammates of Millsap in their Petron days with Lassiter, Ronald Tubid, Alex Cabagnot and June Mar Fajardo, now the reigning two-time MVP.

NLEX will rely on import Henry Walker, who has averaged almost 31 points and 10.64 rebounds during the elimination round.

Equally exciting is the quarterfinal playoff between Ginebra and Alaska.

Alaska defeated Ginebra, 109-100, in an elimination round meeting last July 24 – Justin Brownlee’s first game with the popular squad as replacement to the injured Paul Harris.

Since then, the Kings has gone 7-1 and finished with an 8-3 record.

As for Alaska, after that win the team dropped four of its next five games for a 2-5 card. But the Aces has bounced back and they will enter this playoff game on a four-game win streak.