Veteran sports anchor and ESPN5.com writer Charlie Cuna gives his two cents on the PBA Governors' Cup playoffs, covering the period of November 5 to 11.
Game of the Week
In the 10th week of the PBA Governors' Cup, the quarterfinal round began and ended, and the semifinals got underway. All in all, there were five quarters games, and two semis matches.
Ginebra, Magnolia, and Alaska quickly disposed of their lower-seeded opponents (NLEX, Blackwater, and San Miguel, respectively) in the quarters, taking advantage of their twice-to-beat statuses. It was only the Phoenix-Meralco pairing that went into a second game as seventh-seeded Meralco clamped down on number two Phoenix in their first encounter on Wednesday, to force a do-or-die Friday battle at The Big Dome. And that second game, without a doubt, was the Game of the Week.
While at times, it looked like Phoenix was well on its way to its first semifinal stint, leading by as many as 16 points, gritty Meralco, without Cliff Hodge, still without Ranidel de Ocampo, and with Jared Dillinger still shaking off major rust, fought back, grabbed the lead, lost it, took it back, and looked on its way to winning in regulation. But, certain Rookie of the Year Jason Perkins hit a crucial three to force overtime. In the extra period, Meralco hit the first eight points, anchored on two Baser Amer threes, and never looked back, despite Calvin Abueva's efforts to overhaul the lead. Amer played inspired basketball (26 points with five three-pointers, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, and zero turnovers in almost 40 minutes of action) to emerge as co-Best Player of the Game with import Allen Durham.
Meralco extended its winning streak with a win in Game 1 of its semis series against Alaska on Sunday.
Bolts advance to semifinals
The Meralco Bolts become just the 13th team in PBA history to overcome a twice-to-win disadvantage with an overtime victory over the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
Top performance of the week (local)
Amer was indeed outstanding on Friday against Phoenix, as was Perkins (24 points, six rebounds), but the top local performer for the week was The Lethal Weapon, Ang Angas ng Tondo, Paul Lee of the Magnolia Hotshots. With his team quite the underdog against Ginebra in Game 1 of their semis series on Saturday, considering that Ginebra had dominated the matchup with Magnolia in recent conferences (seven straight wins for the Gin Kings), Lee's phenomenal outing was a welcome sight for Coach Chito Victolero.
Lee has had a history of underwhelming performances against Ginebra, especially since he became one of the main players in the Manila Clasico, but he stepped up big-time this time. Finishing with 27 points, four rebounds, three assists, and four steals in just a little over 30 minutes of action, he shot 57 percent from the field. Lee combined with import Romeo Travis to give their team a lethal one-two punch that Ginebra just could not counter. The big question though is, "Can they do it again?" We will find out tonight.
Magnolia vs Ginebra highlights
Magnolia Hotshots ended their seven-game Manila Clasico losing streak with a 106-98 victory over Barangay Ginebra in Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinal series.
Top performance of the week (import)
Where do we begin? Alaska's Harris has been putting up crazy numbers several games in a row, and he finished the week with averages of 31 points and 17 and a half rebounds. Magnolia's Travis had the highest scoring output in his PBA career on Saturday, finishing with 37 points on 60-percent shooting, 16 rebounds, and five assists in the big win versus Ginebra.
The top performing import though, is two-time Best Import awardee Durham, who led Meralco to three straight playoff victories, the first two of the must-win variety. He showed a level of determination that was off the charts - he seemed exhausted at times, but still gave it his all, rising higher when it counted most for rebounds and finding ways to score when his teammates could not.
Against Phoenix on Wednesday, he posted 26 points, 16 rebounds, and four assists, with three blocks in just under 40 minutes, while on Friday, he had a near triple-double with 32 points, 21 rebounds, and nine assists, in 47 minutes. He put up 32 points on 66-percent shooting, and grabbed 14 rebounds on Sunday against Alaska, also in about 40 minutes. You need to watch Durham play and operate to fully appreciate what he does. There is a reason he has beaten out highly-talented imports these past two years (including the great Justin Brownlee) for the top import award. How far can he lead his seventh-seeded team? With him around, there's always a chance to win.
Disappointing performance of the week
The playoff games this past week were played mostly as they should be - hard-fought, with high-intensity, and ultra-competitive. In what is dubbed as the Manila Clasico (Ginebra vs Magnolia), in a semis matchup to boot, fans were expecting fireworks with an extra serving of Judas' Belt, and they were not disappointed. Initially, Ginebra looked like it would score at will, dropping 39 points in the opening period.
However, the Hotshots found a way to recover, seize the lead, and fight off the last-ditch comeback attempt of the Gin Kings. In the middle of all that was Greg Slaughter, who, perhaps unfairly, is expected to always put up huge numbers to match his gargantuan size. The big man finished with just eight points (on 2/7 shooting, 28%) in almost 26 minutes, though he did have nine rebounds and three assists. My Ginebra-fan friends expressed disappointment with his performance. Credit Victolero and the way his team negated the presence of Gregzilla. While Slaughter may have let some of his and his team's fans down, Magnolia best be wary of his bounce-back performance.
Must-see for this week
We're in the semis! The games are all important. Watch 'em all!