Veteran sports anchor and ESPN5.com writer Charlie Cuna gives his two cents on the PBA Governors' Cup, covering the period of October 29 to November 4.
Games of the Week
The PBA took a break on Wednesday and Friday, but over the weekend, there were two doubleheaders to wrap up the elimination round of the Governors' Cup. On Saturday, Rain or Shine closed out its season with a come-from-behind victory over NLEX, in a game where ROS fielded a severely depleted line-up, but found the energy in the second half to turn the game completely around for the win. The tightest game of the week was on Sunday between Phoenix and Blackwater, who were fighting to secure a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal round, which starts on Tuesday. As expected, the two squads kept it close all throughout and neither gave an inch. It got physical, emotional, and at times, almost got out of hand, but cooler heads prevailed and, in the endgame, hotter shooting from the Fuel Masters (especially a big three from Matthew Wright, which sealed the deal) led them to victory and the second seed heading into the playoffs, where they will face the Meralco Bolts. Blackwater, with the loss, settled for the fifth seed and will face Magnolia in the quarters.
Top performance of the week (local)
Wright (23 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Calvin Abueva (25 points, eight rebounds) stood out and were named Best Players of the Game on Sunday as Phoenix defeated Blackwater. Ginebra's Greg Slaughter efficiently scored 25 points against TNT on Sunday. But, let's give the nod to Chris Tiu, who might have played in his last PBA game on Saturday. Tiu scored a career-high 30 points and had four rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block in his supposed swan song, posting a celebratory stat-line commemorating a short but eventful PBA career. If indeed that was his last appearance (he has yet to give his "final answer", but all indications say it was), then he surely went out with a bang. He gave it his all as he was up and down the hardcourt in his 30 minutes of play (A point a minute!), diving for loose balls, attacking the basket, and banging bodies with opponents. Should he never take the floor again, his multitude of fans will surely remember this last outstanding performance.
Top performance of the week (import)
There are two import performances that stood out.
When Justin Brownlee of Ginebra is doing his thing, it's very easy to take his accomplishments for granted. He has become an efficient machine who knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to make it particularly painful for the opponent. Against TNT on Sunday, he went out and got himself a triple double (31 points on 14/21 from the field or 67%, 16 rebounds, 11 assists, with three steals, and 3 blocks), but he did it in such a manner that, if we weren't paying attention to the stat sheet, we may never have even guessed he was en route to such an impressive stat-line. In the post-game interview, he still looked fresh, smiling as usual, as he humbly thanked the fans for all their support. What a guy.
When we talk about the Governors' Cup of recent years, we can never forget Allen Durham of the Meralco Bolts. He is, after all, the two-time Best Import of the Conference. The seventh-seeded Bolts will be facing the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the quarterfinals (there is still a chance for a third consecutive Ginebra-Meralco Finals), and Durham made sure to remind everyone why he is still one of the best imports when, on Saturday against San Miguel, he put up 35 points (12/19 field goals, 63%), grabbed 26 rebounds, dished out seven assists, and had two steals and two blocks in Meralco's 30-point rout of SMB. With Durham at full force, the Bolts remain a threat against any opponent.
Disappointing performance of the week
Yes, San Miguel got clobbered on Saturday. It was a dismal second half performance and every starter had a negative rating in the +/- category at the end of the game. But, the Beermen are in the playoffs and are still perhaps the opponents other teams are most wary of. The most disappointing performance of the week goes to the TNT KaTropa, which needed to win on Sunday against Ginebra to force a playoff for the last playoff berth against Meralco. While we must give credit to Ginebra's energy and precision despite the game not having any bearing on its playoff seeding, TNT just seemed out of sync and, at several points, totally out of control - a far cry from the championship-caliber TNT we are all so used to seeing. The TNT defense was porous, a step late, repeatedly fouling the Gin Kings, and the KaTropa's execution on offense was suspect, even non-existent. Indeed there was effort on their part, but there was no chemistry at all. Could major changes be in store for this team? We will soon find out.
Must-see for this week
It's the quarterfinals this week. All the matchups are interesting and worth watching, but the one that seems most intriguing is the Alaska-San Miguel pairing. These two teams are old rivals. Alaska holds the twice-to-beat advantage, but, as earlier mentioned, SMB is loaded and always ready to pounce. They meet on Wednesday in the second game of a double-header.