(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7:30 p.m. – Alaska vs Barangay Ginebra San Miguel
In a battle of two title-hungry teams, with two coaches aiming for their first PBA title, it’s going to be a long and tough series when Alaska and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel collide for the Commissioner’s Cup championship in the Cebuana Lhuillier playoffs.
That is what some PBA coaches see in the best-of-five showdown between the Aces and the Kings.
Top seed Alaska and crowd-favorite Ginebra – the No. 7 ranked team in the playoffs – arranged the finals showdown following contrasting wins in the semifinals.
The showdown starts tomorrow with Game 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After losing the series-opener of the semifinals, Alaska won three consecutive games as it eliminated San Mig Coffee, the champion in this same conference last season, in four games to clinch their first finals stint in nearly three years.
Ginebra, on the other hand, came back from 1-2 down in its own semifinal series with Talk ’N Text by winning the do-or-die Game 5, 111-103, Sunday night for its 20th overall championship berth but first in more five seasons.
“It’s a very interesting series. There are new faces in the Finals, so it’s tough call and hard to predict,” Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio said.
Gregorio, of course, is particularly referring to the head coaches of the two franchises, Alaska’s Luigi Trillo and Ginebra’s Alfrancis Chua. Luigi, in his third conference with the Aces, is in his first finals stint while Chua, in his first conference with the Kings, is in his second after steering Tanduay to the 1999 All-Filipino Finals
Alaska is gunning for its 14th title – first in the post-Tim Cone era – while Ginebra is aiming for its ninth championship. This will be just the teams’ third Finals faceoff as Alaska won the first two, the 1991 Third Conference and 1996 Governors’ Cup.
This time, Alaska, according to Gregorio appears to have the edge.
“Alaska has not relinquished the top spot since the early part of the elimination round. They have been consistent and successful in thwarting all the challengers. The series win against the defending champs San Mig in four games solidified their position as the favorites to win the crown,” said Gregorio.
Barako Bull’s Serbian consultant Rajko Toroman also picks the Aces, saying: “It will be a long series. Ginebra has the momentum, but Alaska has been playing well the whole conference.”
As for Globalport coach Junel Baculi, he said that it’s important for Ginebra to have a healthy Mark Caguioa, who missed 11 games since March 22 but played the final 34.5 seconds and made two free throws in Game 5 versus TNT when the win was already in the bag for the Kings. (Waylon Galvez)