Facing the lowest-ranked qualifier in the playoffs, which is two stars down to begin with, top-seeded TNT also has a twice-to-beat advantage over Barangay Ginebra.
But hearing coach Chot Reyes talk, he’s not about to have any of that cloud how his Tropang Giga will approach the game.
“We’re playing the defending champs who are coming off a big win,” Reyes said on the eve of their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal clash at Don Honorio Ventura State University gym on Wednesday where his Tropang Giga could sew up a Final Four seat with a win and gain some sort of payback after the Gin Kings beat them in the Finals last year.
“It will take our very best for us to have a chance.”
TNT also walloped a full-force Ginebra crew in their only elimination round meeting, 88-67 last Sept. 12, where Mikey Williams started putting the super in his rookie tag with a 27-point explosion in 30 minutes.
It was Williams’ coming out party and he has been the main offensive force for the Tropang Giga since then.
And with Scottie Thompson continuing to be out for the Gin Kings for health and safety protocol reasons, Ginebra coach Tim Cone is one good defensive player short as far as people who could stop Williams are concerned.
“As of today (Tuesday), Scottie (Thompson) is still out and doubtful for the TNT game. We will remain shorthanded it seems, but the guys are in good spirits and ready to play,” Cone told the league’s website.
Japeth Aguilar scored 18 points and had five blocks in that elimination round loss. It was also in that game where he injured his MCL (medial collateral ligament) and later on was ruled out for the rest of the conference with the knee showing no improvement.
“Our focus now is just preparing. We can’t worry about who’s not playing for us, we just roll with who we do have and move on,” he added as his No. 8 Kings clash with the Tropang Giga in the 6 p.m. contest.
Second-ranked Meralco also has the same privilege against NLEX, another shorthanded crew, in their 3 p.m. clash as the Bolts try to at least make it to the Final Four and work their way from there.
Meralco was also ousted in the semifinals by the Kings in a series that went the distance in the bubble last season. The Bolts will take a four-game winning streak into the game, which Road Warriors franchise player Kiefer Ravena will also miss after agreeing to play as an Asian import in the Japan B.League.
TNT topped the eliminations with a 10-1 slate, while Ginebra needed an extra game to make the playoffs via the backdoor.
But coming from behind has never been new to the Kings, who will still have a formidable nucleus available in LA Tenorio, Stanley Pringle and Christian Standhardinger who can make things happen.
Meanwhile, doormat Blackwater made its first move under the Ariel Vanguardia era by acquiring Rashawn McCarthy from Terrafirma in exchange for veteran Simon Enciso. The deal was approved on Tuesday.
Vanguardia, who assumed the head coaching job from Nash Racela last Sept. 19, will try to turn the fortunes of Blackwater around. The Bossing lost all 11 games here and they have a 19-game losing streak going, the longest in the history of the league. INQ
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