And now we're down to two. After 65 elimination round games, five quarterfinal games and 10 semifinal games, only the TNT Tropang Giga and the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings are left in the PBA bubble. The two teams begin their best-of-seven series for the 2020 Philippine Cup crown on Sunday (6:00 p.m. live on TV5, One Sports and PBA Rush) and as always, we asked five of our PBA experts on ESPN5.com what they think about this intriguing match-up.
1. Real or not: The two best teams in the bubble are in the finals.
Chuck Araneta: Real. People will say that Phoenix has a case, because they were up 2-1 against TNT despite Matthew Wright playing with a bum ankle. But when they needed to, the Tropang Giga put together a brilliant defensive display in the deciding Game 5, proving they deserve to be here.
Charlie Cuna: Real. They have the most potent lineups and at different times throughout the conference played the best basketball.
Carlo Pamintuan: Real. Many of people said early in the conference that it will be Ginebra vs TNT and that's where we landed.
Jutt Sulit: Real. There were a lot of great storylines and surprising plot twists in the PBA bubble but right from the start, TNT and Ginebra established that both of them are going to be a force in the tournament.
Noel Zarate: Real. Despite the incredible runs of Phoenix and Meralco, these were the two teams that appeared to be on a collision course when the Bubble began.
2. Name and rank the five best players in the finals.
Chuck: 1. Parks 2. Pringle 3. Thompson 4. Castro 5. Aguilar
Charlie: 1. Pringle 2. Parks 3. Castro 4. Thompson 5. Aguilar
Carlo: 1. Parks 2. Pringle 3. Castro 4. Thompson 5. Aguilar
Jutt: 1. Pringle 2. Castro 3. Parks 4. Thompson 5. Pogoy
Noel: 1. Parks 2. Pringle 3. Pogoy 4. Castro 5. Thompson.
3. TNT can win it all because...
Chuck: The sheer offensive brilliance of Parks, who could be a match nightmare for Ginebra. Flanked by Castro, Pogoy and Rosario (who they need desperately to snap out of his funk), and the Tropang Giga could have the firepower to withstand Ginebra's disciplined defense.
Also, TNT traded for Poy Erram for this exact moment. It's time to see if the investment will pay off.
Charlie: It's a team famished for a championship, with so much talent and potentially unmatchable firepower.
Carlo: they have the firepower to cause big problems against Ginebra's defense. Anyone can explode at any given game with Parks being the one constant in their offense.
Jutt: They are deeper than Ginebra. On paper, the star quality of TNT exceeds that of Ginebra. However, they'll have to be more consistent than they were in the semis.
Noel: They have insane firepower and have overcome their biggest test in the semifinals. They now know how to use their weapons.
TNT advances past Phoenix
TNT is going to the PBA Philippine Cup finals for the first time in seven years after defeating Phoenix Super LPG, 91-81, in Game 5.
4. Ginebra can win it all because....
Chuck: They are disciplined, methodical, battle tested and hungry to prove they can win it all even without Justin Brownlee. Also, Stanley Pringle is still the most unguardable player in the league. And apparently Thompson is now a knockdown shooter in the clutch!
Charlie: it is playing the best team basketball at this stage of the conference and has players whose intensity and drive (Thompson and Mariano, for example) are hard to match.
Carlo: they have coach Tim Cone. He's a master in adjustments and he is difficult to outmaneuver in seven-game series.
Jutt: Apart from the obvious skill and talent of the players, they are led by no less than the winningest coach in PBA history.
Noel: Their core is healthy and despite not having their usual crowd support, their championship form is starting to come to the forefront.
5. Your prediction?
Chuck: I don't think I've ever correctly predicted a series involving Ginebra in these 5 on 5s. So for those getting ready to screenshot my answer, here you go. You're welcome!
TNT in 7.
Charlie: Ginebra in 6 or 7 hard-fought and well-contested games. (So close, it could very well go the same way for TNT.)
Carlo: My prediction is that our stay in the bubble will be maxed out. I've accepted that I will be celebrating my birthday here for Game 7.
Jutt: Wow, I really don't know. Hmmm. My wild guess would be TNT in 7.
Noel: Ginebra in 7.