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PBA: SMB, Ginebra kick off semis

Game Today
(Smart Araneta)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Ginebra

Without Slaughter, who will Kings put on Fajardo?

Reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer knows that even without his former collegiate rival Greg Slaughter, their semifinal series with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel will be a tough one.

The two teams – facing in a series for the first time in five years – start what could be an explosive best-of-five affair today in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Without Slaughter to contend with, Fajardo is expected to dominate the series.

The 6-foot-10 center, however, doesn’t agree.

“Maski na wala si Greg mahirap na kalaban ang Ginebra,” said Fajardo, who had several memorable battles against Slaughter when they were still playing in college in Cebu and a few times in the PBA.

“Hindi mo masabi na kasi wala si Greg… iba ang Ginebra. Mahirap na laban to,” Fajardo added.

Without Slaughter, the task to stop Fajardo will be delegated to Japeth Aguilar and other forward on the floor.

That will be an awesome job for Aguilar.

Slaughter missed Ginebra’s first eight games after having surgery to remove bone spurs in his right foot prior to the season-ending conference, and when he returned a few weeks ago against Mahindra, the 7-foot center suffered an ACL injury, which will require at least eight months to recover.

Even coach Tim Cone of Ginebra is wary of their chances, saying: “They got June Mar and they’ve got great weapons around them.”

Fajardo is averaging 20.55 points and 11.64 rebounds with 1.73 shot blocks.

When the two teams clashed in the elimination round last Aug. 14, the Beermen defeated the Kings, 111-105.

At that time, however, SMB was still with its original import AZ Reid.

The former two-time Best Import winner, however, injured his Achilles and was replaced by Michael Singletary, who played for a few games as a temporary import of San Miguel before the management tapped Elijah Millsap.

Millsap is the same import that brought the team to the finals but lost to San Mig Coffee in a seven-game title series in the same tournament three years ago.

Millsap had 39 points and 11 rebounds in leading San Miguel to a 114-110 win against NLEX in the quarterfinals, which moved the franchise to its fourth straight and fifth in the last six under Austria.

Ginebra earned a semifinal ticket by beating Alaska, 109-104, in their quarterfinal affair.

This is the first time for Ginebra to enter the semis or since the 2013 Philippine Cup where it lost to Star (formerly San Mig Super Coffee).