The 2017 PBA Philippine Cup playoff primer
The Beermen are front and center as the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs unfolds.
As we all know by now, the Philippine Cup is the single, most important tournament in the PBA calendar.
And after the regular season finally decided the eight teams that get to compete for the prestigious Jun Bernardino trophy, it's time to finally shift into higher gear in the ALl-Filipino.
This year's playoffs have a little more history behind it as two-time defending champion San Miguel Beer aim to become only the second team to keep the former Perpetual trophy for good by winning a three-peat.
Talk 'N Text was the first one to do it after winning the Philippine Cup from 2011-2013. The Beermen hope to match that by adding the 2017 to complete their own set.
Remember the time when it was so hard to defend the Philippine Cup? Well we're living in a new world now.
Read on and find out how you can survive the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs.
1. San Miguel Beermen vs. 8. Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
Throw away the fact that the Beermen are on a nine-game winning streak and has gone undefeated for two full months, San Miguel is in for a dogfight against te Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
This comes from the fact the ROS was practically on its way to beating San Miguel three weeks ago before a wild ending sequence allowed the Beermen to steal the victory in overtime.
Really, this is not your typical no. 1 vs. no. 8 matchup where you expect the team with the higher seed to basically run through the opposition.
Rain or Shine deserves more respect. We all know it.
San Miguel knows it too.
Still, it should be interesting how the Elasto Painters approach this playoff game without Raymond Almazan. Last time we checked, the Beermen still have June Mar Fajardo. You need all the help you can get against the Kraken.
While the two-time defending champs have been hands down the best team in the 2017 Philippine Cup, don't expect this one to be a blowout. This should be interesting.
Elimination round matchup: San Miguel def. Rain or Shine, 107-101.
4. TNT KaTropa vs. 5. Globalport Batang Pier
Both teams had an up-and-down season that saw them win a string of games and made them look like super contenders before losing a couple of questionable decisions that made you think if they are really legit.
Both teams likewise head to the postseason with identical 6-5 marks. However, TNT and Globalport couldn't be more different as to how they approach basketball games.
On one side we have TNT, a team whose specialty has always been this particular tournament. As proof of their All-Filipino dominance, no team has won more Philippine Cup championships since the flagship MVP franchise won its first in 2003.
However, this TNT squad is not the same compared to the ones that dominated opponents as recently as four years ago. This team is under new management with Nash Racela in charge, the core of the team that actually won those previous championships is ageing, and the young guns trusted with the team's future still hasn't proven anything yet, at least when it comes to playoff basketball.
For a team that has been machine-like throughout its rise as a true PBA dynasty, TNT doesn't look like its well-oiled at least for now.
Enter Globalport into the equation.
Led by the dynamo that goes by the name of Terrence Romeo, the Batang Pier has always been one of the more exciting teams in the PBA. With the arrival of Franz Pumaren as the team's official head coach though, Globalport has gone some sort of maturation this conference with none other than the Bro leading the charge.
Romeo has been stellar in the All-Filipino, averaging a ridiculous 28.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He's literally the driving force behind the Batang Pier and the on true wild card for this best-of-three series.
Backing up Romeo is Stanley Pringle who is also going for a not too shabby 17.8 points per outing. However, behind these two guards, Globalport only has a ragtag group of guys to hold the fort.
That's where both teams differ though, one team prides itself on consistency and team play while the other literally has the game's most dangerous offensive weapon, capable of turning a game around all by himself. This series should be a fun one.
Elimination round matchup: TNT def. Globalport, 102-98.
3. Star Hotshots vs. 6. Phoenix Fuel Masters
If you've been paying attention to the PBA, you may have noticed that Star is officially back.
Not only did the Hotshots finished the regular season with a 7-4 record behind an impressive four-game winning streak, those four games came with an average winning margin of 27.8 points.
Star was basically annihilating opponents left and right during their run, making us question why there's no mercy rule in place for the sport of basketball.
If there was any doubt on this team after a bummer that was last season, those doubts should be erased now. This Star team is for real.
Just ask Allein Maliksi.
Matched up against the Hotshots in this best-of-3 affair are the Phoenix Fuel Masters who on their own right had themselves quite a run on their way to a second straight playoff appearance.
Phoenix won four of its last six games in the All-Filipino for a 6-5 record. In fact, the Fuel Masters were the second team to advance behind only San Miguel, they are also the only team to beat the Beermen this season. That's impressive even if you admit it or not.
As solid as Phoenix's season has been so far though, they do have one fatal flaw. When the Fuel Masters are off, they are absolute off. Looking for proof? How about them losing three games by a combined 55 points?
Let's not also forget about the 44-point beating they suffered against Star that almost ruined their Christmas. That has to be on the head of head coach Ariel Vanguardia and the rest of his team.
Still, the Fuel Masters do have the second-best Gilas cadet at their disposal. Who knows, that dude may be ripe of a triple-double or two that lifts Phoenix to a playoff breakthrough.
Elimination round matchup: Star def. Phoenix, 123-79.
2. Alaska Aces vs. 7. Brgy. Ginebra San Miguel
The no. 2 seed Aces and the no. 7 Gin Kings were only separated by one game after the elimination round. That proves how wild this conference has been.
That also proves that this matchup maybe closer than what it looks like on paper.
However, a major factor favoring the Aces just a little bit in this titanic clash is Calvin Abueva.
Without the Beast, Alaska was 0-2 earlier in the Philippine Cup. With no. 8 in the lineup, the Aces went 7-2 for the rest of the way, winning their last three games to take the other twice-to-beat advantage out of nowhere.
Abueva is not the only good thing going for Alaska though as the Aces are getting meaningful contributions from a new name almost every game. There's also the fact that Alaska handily beat Ginebra earlier this season with Abueva playing less than 20 minutes.
For the Gin Kings though, they have to hope Japeth Aguilar shows up in better shape against the Aces.
With Greg Slaughter still out, Aguilar has grown into literally a big piece for Tim Cone's rotations. We all saw how Ginebra performed following Japeth's elbow injury two weeks ago, it wasn't pretty.
While all of Ginebra's hopes don't solely rely on the production of Aguilar, the Gin Kings still need to find a way to actually play consistent, especially against a balanced team like the Aces.
Since the Gin Kings basically struggled to put together a winning streak all conference long, beating Alaska twice might be a stretch. However, don't count out the Gin Kings yet.
Really, don't bet against Tim Cone in the playoffs. Just don't.
Elimination round matchup: Alaska def. Ginebra, 101-86.
The San Miguel-Rain or Shine and Alaska-Ginebra side of the bracket is set for Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City while the TNT-Globalport and Star-Phoenix games unfold on Saturday at the MOA Arena.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8