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PBA: Must-watch

Kings out to retain title; Bolts seek revenge.

Joe Devance and Jared Dillinger exchanged pleasantries the moment they saw each other before a buffet lunch yesterday, showing little no resemblance of the supposed animosity the two played out on Twitter.

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The banter of the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco veterans on the social media app which started after Dillinger’s declared his hatred on Ginebra has turned into one of the subplots in their PBA Governors’ Cup finals rematch that could end up as good as last year’s encounter.

But the two Fil-Americans opted to break from their social media characters, and expressed their readiness for a series expected to go the distance.

“It’s gonna be a great series, it’s gonna be a lot of battle, it’s gonna be a war, it’s gonna be a lot of trash-talking…excited to get it started,” Dillinger said during the press conference at the Sambokojin restaurant in Eastwood Libis.

“We have a lot of history – recent history between us and hopefully we can come out and just win the series,” Devance shared.

Sequels usually pale in comparison with the first one, and Ginebra and Meralco will have plenty of things left to be done in order to exceed the thrilling end to last season when import Justin Brownlee’s buzzer-beating triple over counterpart Allen Durham put an end to the Gin Kings’ eight-year title drought.

For Meralco, facing Ginebra again is a fitting final obstacle in its quest to finally reach the winner’s podium.

“I felt that there’s no better way than to do it than to take out the defending champions. I wouldn’t want it any other way but to defeat the best,” Newsome said before he looked at the Ginebra players sitting on the other side of the makeshift long table.

“Right now, you guys are the defending champions, and a lot of credit goes to you guys for what you did. But I felt that if we’re gonna get the championship this year, there wouldn’t be any other else that would want to play than the defending champions,” he added.

There are other things that motivate the Bolts’ title bid. They hope to finally lift their first trophy since entering the league in 2010 that would be a fitting tribute to team governor Al Panlilio, who is recovering from an undisclosed illness while Dillinger hopes to make her dying grandmother proud as a winner.

Ginebra has reasons to be motivated as well.

Greg Slaughter is making his first finals as a pro, ironically taking on former Ateneo coach and now Meralco mentor Norman Black, while the rest of the team is keen on making its supporters happy again after losing to San Miguel in the Philippine Cup finals and suffering a semifinal exit to TNT KaTropa in the Commissioner’s Cup.

Incidentally, Ginebra reached the finals by ended the Grand Slam dream of San Miguel in stunning fashion in the quarters and surviving TNT in a semis series filled with bad blood.

“We had a really tough road having to go through San Miguel and TNT,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “Hopefully, we can use that experience to get ready for this one. It’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna be rough, and I just think that we can’t pick a higher quality opponent or a better defensive team.”

The press conference ended with the usual photo-op of both teams and Cone and Black shaking hands. Devance and Dillinger later went back in character and pose for a faceoff that looked as if they were ready for a 12-round boxing fight in Las Vegas.

Amid the hoopla of the finals that starts two nights from now in Lucena City, the two teams can’t wait to lock horns and chase the ultimate prize.