Veteran sports anchor and ESPN5.com writer Charlie Cuna gives his insights on the two semifinal series of the 2018 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner's Cup.
Game of the week
Because of poor weather conditions, two game-dates were cancelled and, as a result, the semi-finals did not end in the past week. There were five games played, three in the SMB-Alaska series (Games 2-4), and two in the Ginebra-ROS series (Games 2 and 3). The SMB-Alaska match-up terminated on Sunday, as the Beermen bucked every Aces uprising, to come away with a 104-99 series-clinching victory (3-1).
The Game of the Week, though, was played on Saturday, between the Gin Kings and the Elasto Painters. In a low-scoring, grind-it-out battle, Ginebra took a 25-point lead in the first half and looked poised to blow ROS out of the Arena, leading by 23 at the break. However, Coach Caloy Garcia's squad showed more grit and resolve in the second half and slowly crept back into the game. The comeback fell just short though, as Ginebra eked out a three-point triumph, 75-72, to go up 2-1 in the series. It wasn't pretty at all, and players and coaches were constantly upset with the inconsistent officiating and physical play and trash talk, but that's how the playoffs go and emotions were surely running high. Game 4 is Monday night at The Big Dome.
Top performance of the week by a local
It seems almost unfair that four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo is not credited with the top performance of the week because he has consistently put up outstanding statistics in every game and his team has, most of the time, come out on top. Fajardo had a three-game line of 21 points and 18 rebounds, 18 points and 15 rebounds, and 26 points and 12 rebounds, in his team's 2-1 week. His team is in the Finals yet again, and he is the primary reason.
The performances of the SMB wonder backcourt of Alex Cabagnot (18pts, 5rbs, 9asts, 3stls off the bench) and Chris Ross (17pts, 5rbs, 4 asts, 4/9 three-pointers) in the series-clinching game on Sunday are also worthy of praise.
Top performance of the week by an import
Sorry, Renaldo, but Justin got one over you again. Lately, it's been these two vying for the top performance of the week by an import. While Balkman was solid as usual each game (3-game averages of 27 points and 12 rebounds), Brownlee had the single best showing on Saturday, as he was Mr. Everything, especially offensively, for Coach Tim Cone's squad. Ginebra needed every shot he made to pull it off against stubborn Rain or Shine. He finished with 44 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, five steals, and a block, on 14-of-19 from the field (73%), including 6-of-8 from rainbow country (78%). He outscored the entire ROS line-up in the first half (25 to 23), and made big shots down the stretch. We said last week that "JB" might as well be "MJ". His game on Saturday was surely Jordanesque.
Disappointing performance of the week
We might have to nitpick here, because there is no glaring disappointing performance from the past week, really. Looking up and down the box scores will show that, overall, San Miguel was not at its usual level on Friday at Ynares, Antipolo, as Alaska (which played superbly, by the way) had its way against the Beermen, 125-104. Arwind Santos mentioned post-game that he felt his team went away from the game plan, did not play together, and, perhaps, got complacent. His stat-line illustrates the sub-par play of his side, as he ended up with atypical numbers of just three points and one rebound, on 0-7 from the field.
Must-see for this week
The semis will end either on Monday or Wednesday, depending on how Rain or Shine, trailing 1-2 in the best-of-5, fares on Monday versus Ginebra. The Finals will be upon us in just a few days. It's must-see basketball from here on. Watch every game live on ESPN5 and ESPN5.com.