Today’s Video Games (Smart Araneta Coliseum) 3 p.m. TNT vs. Magnolia 6 p.m. Meralco vs. San Miguel
The Final Four of the PBA’s most prestigious tournament features a rematch of last season’s Philippine Cup final and a clash between two squads with opposing styles.
Defending champion TNT tries to get one step closer to a return to the championship round as it continues its title defense against Magnolia Timplados, a team it easily defeated in five games (4-1) last season.
Both teams finished with the same 8-3 win-loss record, but the Tropang Giga earned the No. 2 seed, giving them an easier path to the Final Four. They easily defeated the league’s newest team, the Converge FiberXers, in the playoffs, 116-95.
The Tropang Giga and the Hotshots meet at 3 p.m., just before the main event between the San Miguel Beermen and the Bolts at 6 p.m.
Magnolia, on the other hand, went through the proverbial eye of the needle and needed a minute of magic to avoid elimination and pull off a nail-biting 112-106 overtime win over the hard-fighting NLEX Road Warriors last Sunday.
The Tropang Giga were able to benefit from a few days of rest, but the Hotshots are still trying to recover from one of the most difficult playoff encounters they had ever faced.
But, according to Hotshots coach Chito Victolero, the tough series helped them prepare for a more difficult encounter against their Finals foe.
“They gave us a really, really good fight,” Victolero said.
“They prepared us for the semifinals. I had a bad matchup against NLEX. Their wingmen and guards are taller, so we had trouble matching up against (Calvin) Oftana and (Don) Trollano. That’s why we can’t use the three-guard combination. But they prepared us, the mental toughness and the physical game. We are grateful.”
San Miguel Beer’s journey to the top of the standings was similar to TNT’s.
In the playoffs, the Beermen defeated the Blackwater Bossing, 123-93, and benefited from a few days of rest.
San Miguel is favored to win against a Meralco team determined to give pinch-hitter coach Luigi Trillo a victory before resident coach Norman Black takes over the coaching duties again in Game 2.
Following the death of his mother, Black had to return to the United States to attend to family matters, delegating coaching duties to his deputy coaches.
Black is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.
His lead assistant coach, Ronnie Magsanoc, was supposed to take over, but he had a prior commitment as the national coach of the Philippine 3×3 team to the FIBA Asia Cup.
That paved the way for Trillo to take over as coach of the Bolts, and he did an excellent job, leading the team to six victories in eight games, including a quarterfinals victory over Meralco’s bitter rival, Barangay Ginebra.
Trillo was able to make it 2-0 against his long-time coach in the playoffs by defeating his old mentor Tim Cone.
As Alaska’s coach in the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup, Trillo defeated Cone’s San Mig Coffee team 3-1 in the semifinals before defeating Ginebra, then coached by Alfrancis Chua, in a three-game sweep in the championship round.