The 2017 PBA Governors' Cup playoff primer
Paul Lintag on Sep 25, 2017 08:02 PM
Can Justin Brownlee lead the barangay to another title?
There are two major storylines to the 2017 Governors' Cup.
The most obvious one of course is San Miguel Beer chasings its second Grand Slam in franchise history. After winning the first two tournaments of this current season, the 2017 Beermen are looking to make their case as the best team ever.
The other major storyline is Brgy. Ginebra trying to defend its title. After "The Shot" ended eight years of futility in last season's Governors' Cup, the Gin Kings don't want to wait another eight years to win another title.
All the major characters are back and Ginebra appears to be better than ever with Greg Slaughter back in the fold. The Gin Kings remain the favorites regardless if San Miguel has a triple crown in mind.
Fortunately, there's going to be just one major storyline after one week as the sister teams meet each other to start the playoffs of the season-ending conference. It's like the basketball gods couldn't wait to pit these titans against each other.
While this matchup has the feels of a finals series, the rest of the field remains competitive as seven of the eight playoff teams had at least seven wins each. The last team to advance came back from a 0-3 start.
This should be an interesting final month for the 2017 Governors' Cup, and it's time to get familiar with these playoffs.
1. Meralco Bolts vs. 8. Blackwater Elite
Let's call it as it is, this is Meralco's revenge tour.
After a bitter Finals loss last season, the Bolts have been on a mission in the Governors' Cup, raring to prove that their deep playoff run last year was no fluke and that they're, in fact, more than good enough to win it all.
With reigning Best Import Allen Durham back, Meralco has been on a tear, losing all but two games in its schedule.
With Jimmy Alapag now retired, Baser Amer has assumed a primetime role for the team and Meralco even found him a perfect backup in Mike Tolomia.
The Bolts also added veteran forward Ranidel De Ocampo for obvious reasons as Meralco looks to get over that hump and win a first PBA title in franchise history.
Standing in their way in the first round is Blackwater, a team that is making only its second playoff appearance ever.
After a 0-3 start, it appeared that the Elite were on their way to another disappointing conference but import Henry Walker arrived and the team went on an inspiring run.
The Elite finished with a 5-6 record, tying a franchise record for most wins in a single conference and are looking for some upsets in their fresh opportunity at postseason play.
After multiple deals, Blackwater also has a wildcard now in Allein Maliksi. The Elite may be the no. 8 team but they have some weapons to make Meralco work.
Elimination round matchup: Meralco def. Blackwater, 107-78
4. Star Hotshots vs. 5. NLEX Road Warriors
Both of these teams kinda have the same story this conference. Both squads had fast starts and although they had their fair share of mini slumps, they still finished with a respectable record, way above .500.
And in an interesting turn of events, bot teams also squared off in their final regular season assignments, a game that was practically Game 1 of a virtual best-of-3 series especially with how the final pairings played out.
As such, Star has a twice-to-beat advantage over NLEX and the Hotshots are looking to advance to a third straight semifinals this season.
Following a 4-0 start, Star endured a three-game slide before changing imports again, allowing them to win three of their last four games and somehow sneak into the top 4. The Hotshots are healthier now with Marc Pingris back in the fold and the loss of Allein Maliksi via trade sort of forces Star to have a more balanced attack.
Meanwhile, NLEX was 7-2 and was in prime position for a playoff bonus. However, the Road Warriors botched the finish to their campaign and now find themselves in a desperate position in their first playoff appearance this season.
Despite technically being the underdog team, NLEX should have some confidence against Star since they were in control of their game just two days ago before the Hotshots made a run in the second half.
Also, Aaron Fuller is still one of the better imports this conference and coach Yeng Guiao finaly has some veterans with championship experience at his disposal. Do not be surprised if this goes the distance.
Elimination round matchup: Star def. NLEX, 101-93
3. Brgy. Ginebra vs. 6. San Miguel
Here it is, a rematch of the Philippine Cup Finals in the quarterfinals of the Governors' Cup.
Grand Slam vs. Back-to-back championships.
It's a little unusual to see the Beermen on the ropes this early in the playoffs but, the team has no one to blame but themselves. If San Miguel just handled its business against Meralco, they are an automatic top-2 seed and Ginebra will be dealing with a twice-to-win situation in the playoffs.
However, here we are now and the Beermen are one loss away from elimination. Against the defending champions.
San Miguel's conference has been rocky at best. June Mar Fajardo got injured in the middle of the tournament and they've shuffle through three imports now. Still, these are still the Beermen. It would be unwise to count them out.
Ginebra though, remains the favorite, albeit only by a slight margin.
Their record suggest that the Gin Kings are the better team and they are, as of right now. Despite losing to the Beermen earlier in the conference, Ginebra has been near perfect in its title defense, incorporating Greg Slaughter back in the lineup to form the most formidable frontline in the league with Japeth Aguilar, Joe Devance, and import Justin Brownlee.
One cause of concern though is the fact that Ginebra lost two of its final three games, including a 29-point beatdown just this past week.
Still, this should be the best pairing in the quarterfinals with all the things at stake. This is going to be wild.
Elimination round matchup: San Miguel def. Ginebra, 107-103
2. TNT KaTropa vs. 7. Rain or Shine
Rain or Shine gave TNT a historic beatdown earlier in this conference, but let's put an asterisk to that win.
Well, it was Glen Rice Jr.'s first game with TNT and the KaTropa were missing three starters to Gilas Pilipinas at that time.
However, the Elasto Painters were also missing two players to the national team and they still won by 30 plus. Okay, let's take the asterisk back.
This might be the closest 2-7 matchup this season especially since both teams have steamrolled their way to the postseason.
Rain or Shine is coming in with back-to-back wins by an average of points while the KaTropa are fresh from a 29-point destruction of defending champion Ginebra.
Expect fireworks in this showdown.
Elimination round matchup: Rain or Shine def. TNT, 105-73.
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