THERE’S no love lost when top seed Barangay Ginebra and Meralco, two of the most popular teams now, renew their rivalry in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinal at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Center in Pampanga.
The Gin Kings and the Bolts have battled each other thrice in the finals already.
And although the Gin Kings have won all their three previous matchups, the Bolts hope to do better in this newest chapter of a one-sided rivalry now being played without an import and in an NBA-inspired bubble environment without the fans.
Game time is 6:30 p.m. with the odds still slightly in favor of Ginebra.
Ginebra, the No. 1 team in the elimination with a 9-3 record, will be seeking to extend its mastery over Meralco now without resident import Justin- Brownlee and long-time center Greg Slaughter.
Meralco, which made it to the semis as the No 5 team, will be looking for payback with a vastly-improved line-up that can now match up well with their rival.
Focus will also be on the battle between Ginebra coach Tim Cone and Meralco mentor Norman Black, two of the league’s winningest coaches with a combined 33 titles between them.
“For me, playing Meralco is getting harder and harder because they continue to get better and better,” said Cone, who is hoping to lead Ginebra to its first All-Filipino title since 2007.
Standing on the way is Meralco.
“We always know that Ginebra is going to be the favorites,”said Black.
“They have a very, very good team, a lot of quality players on their team.They’ve been getting the better end of the match-up. Hopefully, we can change that this conference,” added Black, who is leading the Bolts to their first-ever semifinal appearance in the importless conference.
Last Oct. 18, Ginebra also defeated Meralco, 105-91, in their only meeting this conference so far.
The winner of the Ginebra-Meralco best-of-five semifinal series will meet the victor of the Phoenix Super LPG-Talk N Text showdown in the other semifinal.
The Fuel Masters, who finished No. 2, and the Tropang Giga, who wound up No.3, will also begin their own best-of-five semis at 3:45 p.m. today.
Odds are about even between the two teams, although the Tropang Giga have already beaten the Fuel Masters, 110-91, last Oct. 19.
“We have to go out and get it,” said Talk N Text coach Bong Ravena.
(AUF Sports Center)
3:45 p.m. — Talk N Text vs. Phoenix
6:30 p.m. — Ginebra vs.Meralco