by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs Ginebra
Top seed TNT KaTropa and defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel are likely to figure out in a battle of wits as the semifinal phase of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup begins at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tipoff is set at 7 p.m. with the KaTropa and Kings looking to draw first blood in the best-of-five series featuring a showdown between the top candidates for the Best Import award and talented locals from both sides.
Ginebra enters the series riding on the crest of its quarterfinal sweep of rival Magnolia while TNT is hoping to take advantage of the lessons gained in its tough series with underdog Alaska.
TNT beat Ginebra, 104-96, in their lone elimination round meeting last June 12 behind import Terrence Jones and Roger Pogoy, who became the fourth local player in league history to hit 10 threes in a game.
“There’s a reason TNT finished as the No. 1 seed – they’re good,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “Plus they showed great resilience against Alaska, so we know we have an uphill climb against them.”
The KaTropa almost never made it to the final four after being pushed to the limit by the Aces in the quarters. TNT needed a second half comeback after being down by 15 in the second period to produce a 104-93 win last Wednesday.
TNT coach Bong Ravena and active consultant Mark Dickel know they have their hands full facing Ginebra, especially with Stanley Pringle expected to be the major difference in this time.
Pringle wasn’t around during TNT’s win over Ginebra in the elims, though the speedy guard caused problems for the KaTropa when he scored 22 points to help the NorthPort Batang Pier deal the Jones-led squad its first loss, 110-86, in late-May.
“Obviously adding Stanley to that team present more issues since the last time we played them,” said Dickel. “I think the key for us is how we adjust to them being a different team from the last time we played them.”
Serving as a subplot is the expected duel between the top two scorers of the conference in the former NBA player Jones (33.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.3 blocks) and Justin Brownlee (35.9 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.6 steals, 2.2 blocks).