WHO between these two weary teams will get to sustain the momentum and gain a psychological first win in their best-of-5 semifinal battle in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup?
That’s the least that can be asked of San Miguel Beer and Rain or Shine which will return to action in earnest today after their excruciating stints in the quarterfinal round
The Beermen went hot and cold during the elimination round and had to endure the disadvantage of having to beat second seed NorthPort to make this far.
The Beermen, who finished seventh in the elimination, swept the Batang Pier, 2-0, capped by a 90-88 win last July 24. The Elasto Painters, who finished sixth, also swept their opponent in Blackwater following an 85-83 win in game 2 last July 25.
Now, it’s like starting from scratch for both teams as they seek to ride the momentum of those playoff wins when they meet at 6:30 p.m. in Game 1 of their semifinal duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen, owners of 26 titles – the most by any team in the league – are chasing the second jewel of a possible grand slam season, although coach Leo Austria has always insisted, they are not thinking of it (grand slam), or his Beermen would only feel the pressure.
The Beermen actually made the finals of the midseason conference last season, but were defeated by Barangay Ginebra. They have another crack at earning a shot at import-laced tournament, and they have pretty handsome chance with import Chris McCullough getting better each game.
"My mission is to help our guys get to the finals and win the championship," said McCullough, a topnotch import who is out to lead the Beermen to a third straight finals in the midseason tourney.
McCullough is expected to draw ample support from the SMB locals, led by June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Terrence Romeo, among others, making them the slight favorites over the Elasto Painters.
The Elasto Painters are equally motivated as they are looking to rise to the challenge and make a first finals since their 2016 second conference title run.
However, Rain or Shine has to make do with what is left on its roster, and coach Caloy Garcia is hoping James Yap, Maverick Ahanmisi and Ed Daquiaog would be able to recover and help in their tough climb in the semis.
Their import in Clint Montgomery maybe among the shortest, yet his yeoman job has provided sparks and energy which rubbed off on the RoS locals.
McCullough and Montgomery were both already in town when the Beermen and the E-Painters met in the elims, with the former barely squeezing out an 89-87 win in a road game in Cagayan de Oro on July 13.
The E-Painters were then able to match up well, offsetting the Beermen's advantage in size and length. But SMB looks well a different team now, with the Beermen back in the groove.
SMB will miss Marcio Lassiter who is down with an MCL injury suffered in their last game against NorthPort.
RoS is looking to improve its semis finish in the All-Filipino while SMB is seeking to stay on course for a possible grand slam finish.