Veteran sports anchor and ESPN5.com columnist Charlie Cuna gives his two cents on the 2018 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors' Cup, covering the period of October 1 to 7.
Game of the week
Eight games were played in the fifth week of the PBA Governors' Cup, and there were a couple of really good ones.
The Alaska Aces and the San Miguel Beermen played a tight contest on Saturday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City, with Alaska hitting the biggest shots in the end for a 127-119 win.
Barangay Ginebra and the Meralco Bolts battled on Sunday in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. The Bolts played some of their best basketball of the conference in the first half and led by two at intermission. However, Ginebra had a huge scoring run in the third quarter and held off Meralco's late rally, 111-105.
However, the Game of the Week came on Friday at The Big Dome. Meralco had been struggling overall and Blackwater looked to bounce back from its first loss of the Conference in its last game. The game was intense, physical, and had the makings of a playoff battle. Meralco built a 10-point lead early in the fourth, but the Elite would not quit. Despite the Bolts' Ken Bono's big shots, Blackwater went on a run, led by rookie Paul Zamar and import Henry Walker, to keep it close and even take the lead. There were exchanges of baskets, clutch shot after clutch shot, but after Allen Durham tied the game on a free throw with only seconds to go, Zamar decided he did not want an extra period, nailed a 3-pointer, and sealed the deal for the Elite, 94-91.
Ginebra vs. Meralco highlights
Defending champions Brgy. Ginebra turned back Meralco Bolts, 111-105 to secure a quarterfinals berth in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup.
Top performance of the week by a local
Several locals had outstanding performances. Jerramy King (29 points vs. Northport), Christian Stanhardinger (28 points, 13 rebounds vs. Alaska), and Chris Newsome (25 points vs. Ginebra) all had stellar games in losses. Japeth Aguilar scored 31 points in Ginebra's win against Meralco.
However, a trio of Northport Batang Pier players carried their team to its first win of the Conference on Saturday in Antipolo, 118-101. They showed that, when things come together, this team has a potent lineup. Stanley Pringle (26 points), Sean Anthony (25 points off the bench), and Mo Tautuaa (26 points and 10 rebounds) pounced on a Columbian Dyip squad that played well for three quarters but collapsed in the end.
Tautuaa gave the performance PBA fans have been expecting since he was the top pick in the 2015 draft. The challenge for Tautuaa is playing consistently.
Top performance of the week by an import
Durham's two games this week were prolific -- 32 points, 21 rebounds, six assists, and three blocks vs. Blackwater, and 36 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists against Ginebra. He is slowly regaining his form as a two-time Best Import awardee, as his numbers increased in week five of the tournament. The stint at the FIBA Champions Cup seems to have benefitted him. However, his team is struggling and lost both its games.
Kevin Murphy, SMB's import, followed up his 37-point debut two weeks ago with a 45-point, 11-rebound performance. However, his team is 0-2 during that stretch.
Mike Harris of the Alaska Aces stood out above the rest. Harris against Rain or Shine on Wednesday put up 39 points and 25 rebounds in the Aces' 106-89 rout. He followed with 36 points and 23 rebounds against SMB on Saturday. The NBA veteran, the most senior import in the Governors' Cup conference showed youthful aggressiveness and mental maturity in leading the Aces to two more wins for the week, and 5-1 overall. Impressive indeed.
Disappointing performance of the week
For the second week in a row, it seemed something is amiss with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Having replaced its original import, ineffective J'Nathan Bullock, with Terrence Watson, and already at 0-2, the expectation was ROS would go all out to score a victory. However, Watson was not in game shape (he was a very serviceable import last season with SMB) and ROS met an Alaska team on Wednesday that didn't exhibit any rust after more than a month of inaction. Coach Caloy Garcia's squad had a much better showing on Sunday against Blackwater, but again, the team could not make the necessary stops in the fourth quarter, falling 99-93. They went 0-2 for the week and are now 0-4 overall. With the least amount of games played, though, ROS still has time to change its fortunes.
Must-see for this week
Teams are now jockeying for playoff positions. A look at the seven-game schedule for this week shows an intriguing matchup in the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader: Magnolia (5-1) and Blackwater (6-1). These two teams are serious top four contenders (maybe even top two).