(Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Ginebra
Beermen vs Gin Kings: Game 1 tonight at MOA Arena.
The early momentum is something the defending champion San Miguel Beermen and crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra San Miguel want to gain tonight as they start their best-of-seven series for the PBA Philippine Cup crown at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Coaches Tim Cone of Ginebra and Leo Austria agree that winning the 7 p.m. kickoff that will put either team at an advantage as far as dictating the tempo in a series that is expected a long and exciting one.
“I think Game 1 is always crucial,” Cone said. “You dictate the series when you go out and take Game 1. We we’re down 0-2 (against Star in the semifinals) and you don’t want to put yourself in that situation where you have to overcome those long odds.
“Game 1 is crucial because now you’re in control, you’re the one and the other team is reacting to you. You’re making the action, and they reacted to you. It’s like you’re on the offense and they’re on the defensive,” he added.
Cone can make Ginebra dictate the series with his lineup that relies on not just one player or two. He did that in beating the Hotshots in seven games, with LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Sol Mercado and Scottie Thompson making scattered contributions.
He called Jervy Cruz as the MVP of the semis for his silent production on both ends, while Joe Devance was able to have his share of moments despite having to deal with injections on his injured left foot.
Austria, hoping to the give the Beermen their third straight Philippine Cup and ownership of the Perpetual Trophy named after the late Jun Bernardino, will counter that with his premier player in June Mar Fajardo, something that should give Cone plenty of dilemma until tipoff.
“I don’t really have a plan yet to stop June Mar, I don’t even know if there’s plan to stop June Mar,” Cone said.
Cone may not admit it, but he already has a blueprint that he can use. In last season’s Governors’ Cup, Ginebra forced Fajardo to work for his points, mostly ganging up the 6-foot-10 center much to his frustration.
Despite that, Austria has no plans of changing his strategy, nor continue with his practice of putting heavy minutes of his key players such as Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross.
“Gusto ko makita (sa Game 1) na how really good the players are executing the plays,” Austria said. “Ayoko naman na makikita ko mga players na nananalo pero a certain players lang dahil sa one-on-one lang ako o puro kay June Mar, puro kay Alex o anu gusto ko.
“I want everyone contributing. But when the important basket is needed, I have to go to our high-percentage player,” he added.
It’s obvious who’s the high-percentage player Austria is saying. But if Fajardo gets caught up in another tight defending by Ginebra, Austria hopes to see his perimeter players such as Lassiter, Cabagnot, Ross, Santos, and even reserves RR Garcia and Ronald Tubid, if needed, to deliver.
“(Fajardo) is the first option. But of course, those perimeter players should be ready dahil anytime they could be the hero,” he said.