The semifinals of the 2023 Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup are set and will tip off on Friday, March 24, featuring a pair of matchups between sister teams.
In a best-of-five series, one of PBA’s two EASL Champions Week representatives and second seed, San Miguel Beermen, will be taking on third seed and defending 2023 Commissioner’s Cup champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. Both teams are owned by mother company, San Miguel Corporation.
Ginebra reached the Final Four with a 127-93 thrashing against NLEX Road Warriors in the quarterfinals. However, the team will be entering this playoff matchup with heavy hearts, as it will be the first game since their legendary point guard LA Tenorio revealed on Tuesday that he has stage three colon cancer. Tenorio had surgery a few weeks ago in Singapore and will continue to serve as the team’s assistant coach during their playoff run, as the team hope to rally and win for their team captain.
The Beermen are also dealing with absences of their own, as their star player, June Mar Fajardo is suffering from an MCL injury. Fajardo has not played a game since the Beermen’s EASL Champions Week matchup against Ryukyu Golden Kings, where he only logged one minute of play. Despite Fajardo’s absence, SMB has racked up three straight victories, a streak capped by a 121-105 drubbing over Converge FiberXers in the quarterfinals. Imports Cameron Clark and CJ Perez have picked up the slack, as the duo recorded 66 of the team’s 121 points Sunday.
Ginebra head coach, Tim Cone knows San Miguel will be a tough beat going into the semis. “We are playing well but San Miguel is playing probably the best in the league right now,” said Cone after the NLEX win last Sunday. “They are really playing well. But it's going to be a really, really tough series even if June Mar is not there,”
“They've proven over the past three games without June Mar that they can play at a high level without him,” Cone added. “Their import has an opportunity to dominate a little bit more inside. They've been able to overcome June Mar's absence with flying colors.”
On the other side of the bracket, PBA’s other EASL Champions Week representative, TNT Tropang Giga will take their league’s number one offense to face the Meralco Bolts, the league’s number one defense. Both teams are owned by Filipino businessman, Manuel V. Pangilinan.
TNT, who was first in the Elimination Round standings with a 10-1 record, comes in as the highest scoring team in the country, averaging 118.5 points per game this season. Talk ‘N Text have plenty of momentum on their side, as they are currently on an impressive nine-game winning streak, including a 132-105 dominating win over eighth-seed Phoenix Fuel Master in the quarters.
However, the number-one seed will miss the services of starting big man Kelly Williams, who is slated to miss the rest of the PBA playoffs after hurting his calf in the first quarter against Phoenix. Despite the loss of Williams, the team still has plenty of firepower, boasting the likes of former NBA forward, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, four-time PBA All-Star RR Pogoy and 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Finals MVP Mikey Williams.
TNT coach Jojo Lastimosa believes it is essential for his team to play at their own pace in the series against Meralco. “We need to be more patient in our attack against their (Bolts) good defense and not be frustrated and continue to move the ball,” Lastimosa said.
Meralco Bolts comes into the series limiting their oppositions to a league-low 100.4 points per game. However, their road to the semis was a lot rockier than most, winning a 113-107 overtime thriller against the Magnolia Hotshots on Wednesday to advance to the next round.
The fourth seed is led by former NBA swingman, KJ McDaniels, who is averaging 26 points in 11 games this season. McDaniels will be playing against his former Brooklyn Nets teammate, Hollis-Jefferson in this series.
Meralco head coach Norman Black hopes their stifling defense can be a big obstacle for TNT’s high-octane offense. “The one thing going for us is we are the top defensive team in the league. Something’s gonna give,” said Black. “Talk ‘N Text is a completely different team. They are a high-scoring team… They outscore you up and down the court. Not to say they don’t play defense because they do. They do it in a high-scoring way.”
“Against Talk ‘N Text, we have to rebound the basketball. We do have some size and they are very athletic. We have to control the boards and limit their fastbreak as much as possible,” Black added.
It will be an exciting day for basketball on Friday. In a best-of-five series, one game doesn’t determine the winner, but it will put the team in a favorable position to advance to the final. Who will take home the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup? Stay tuned!