THE stake is always high every time Meralco and Barangay Ginebra collide at the Philippine Arena.
The Bolts and the Gin Kings had their last three games of their 2017 Governors’ Cup best-of-7 finals showdown staged at the huge arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The Gin Kings beat the Bolts in Game 5 and finished off the Bolts in Game 7 after a Game 6 debacle, in a historic win that was well worth the time, effort and money spent by 106,251 fans — the combined number of fans that watched the three finals games – in the Arena.
The Gin Kings became the first PBA club to be crowned there.
For the Gin Kings, the Philippine Arena is a monumental witness to their return to greatness, and a huge reminder of debacle on the part of the Bolts who lost to the Kings in the finals for second straight season.
The Arena’s appeal – and reminder to both teams – can only make the two teams as motivated as they can be when they meet once again in the 55,000-seat complex today.
It will be the second time this conference that the Philippine Arena will host a PBA doubleheader after NLEX beat GlobalPort and Ginebra downed Magnolia on Christmas Day.
For the Kings, it will be their seventh game in Bocaue, losing just once here which happened to be the Game 6 of the last Governors’ Cup last October.
However, things will be absolutely different this time because they don’t have the luxury of fielding their imports like in the last Governors’ Cup – with the league’s most popular ballclub having Justin Brownlee on its side and Allen Durham on Meralco’s side.
“No doubt, it’s been a struggle for both teams since meeting in the Finals, but we’re both playing better of late,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
“They (Bolts) will look to put five shooters on the floor so our bigs will have to extend out away from the basket,” added Cone. “We’ll have to find ways to cover all of them.”
At 5-4, the Gin Kings are not that far from the leaders and thus remain in contention for a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters, although they still need this win in the 6:45 p.m. meeting with the Bolts to bolster their chances for the top two.
As of today, no team is assured of the semifinal ‘bonus’ as many things can still happen in the last five playing dates.
On the other hand, the Bolts, who showed championship caliber when they stopped the then title-seeking Ginebra in Game 6 in Governors’ Cup, need to play like that today to keep its slim chance at making the playoffs and avoid a third consecutive early exit in the all-Filipino tournament.
The Bolts have been teetering on the verge of elimination, but breathed new life last Valentine’s Day after nosing out Phoenix, 92-90, for what was only their third win in nine outings.
NLEX and Blackwater meet in the first game at 4:30 p.m. in an equally-interesting tussle as both teams are looking to enhance their quarterfinal bids.
NLEX is in the middle of the pack with Ginebra with similar 5-4 records, while Blackwater forged a tie for eighth with Phoenix after its 95-76 victory over Kia Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX is gunning for its third straight win that will keep it on safer ground.
The Elite, who also posted back-to-back victories, are in danger of missing the playoffs if they lose either one of their remaining two matches. Their last assignment is against Phoenix on Feb. 21.