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PBA: Alaska, SMB start series

By Jonas Terrado

Game Today
(Mall of Asia Arena)
6:40 p.m. – San Miguel vs Alaska

Defending champion San Miguel Beer and Alaska start their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series at the Mall of Asia Arena with the revenge angle likely to play a factor in the first playoff meeting of both teams since a historic championship duel two years ago.

San Miguel completed the comeback of all ages when it erased a 0-3 deficit to stun Alaska in the 2016 Philippine Cup Finals, a moment that the Beermen continue to savor and a nightmare to the Aces, who still perhaps remember it even to this day.

The first game of their best-of-five series is set at 6:40 p.m, as San Miguel tries to center its attention on completing the second task of its quest for a second straight crown than deal with Alaska’s wrath.

SMB reached the last four of the midseason conference after hard-fought wins over TNT KaTropa in the best-of-three quarters, with import Renaldo Balkman and reigning Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo playing the lead role.

The Beermen carry the psychological edge over the Aces, who overcame the indefinite suspension of Calvin Abueva, the stabbing incident that involved Jeron Teng and the late departure of Antonio Campbell to advance to their first semis since the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.

One main concern for San Miguel will be Alaska’s new go-to-guy in Vic Manuel, the man they call “The Muscleman” who topped the Best Player of the Conference race after the eliminations and leading all locals in scoring at over 24 points per game thanks to 11 straight games of at least 20.

“They are a very dangerous team because Muscleman is playing really well and playing very efficient, and that is the one thing we have to focus against Alaska,” said Beermen coach Leo Austria.

Austria is also wary of Campbell’s replacement in veteran Diamon Simpson, who attempts to repeat what he did for the Aces in 2010 when they won the Fiesta Conference championship.

“Diamon gives us a different dimension,” said Aces mentor Alex Compton. “I think he’s similar to what Balkman gives to San Miguel. He’s energetic, fast four and a defensive presence.

“But the best thing about Diamon is actually it’s his character, I think. He’s a worker, he’s all about the team, he’s all about winning and he’s really active,” he added.

The Aces are also banking on Chris Banchero, Jvee Casio, Simon Enciso, Ping Exciminiano, Teng and Sonny Thoss to counter the Beermen’s talent-laden roster that includes Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot.

Rookie Christian Standhardinger, who has been missing the last few games because of a knee injury, could see action for the Beermen in the semis.

What do you think?

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