Ginebra, TNT face testy and tough semis grind

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    WHEN one talks about going deep in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs, Ginebra and TNT have both been there, done that.

    That’s what Meralco and Phoenix would like nothing more than to emulate.

    But that’s just one of the reasons why this year’s edition of the best-of-five semifinal duels starting today are expected to be hotly-contested affairs at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City.

    The Fuel Masters take on eliminations tormentor Tropang Giga in the opener, followed immediately by the Kings-Bolts tussle.

    This marks the first time since it joined the league in 2010 that Meralco has advanced past the quarterfinals of the tourney formerly known as the All-Filipino and it now has a chance to get back at the same Ginebra team that prevailed in three of the last four Governors Cup finals meetings.

    “They’ve been getting the better end of the match-up, by the way,” was Bolts coach Norman Black’s reminder to the uninitiated about his Bolts’ head-to-head match-ups.

    “But, hopefully, we can change that this conference,” added Black, whose team draws additional optimism from the fact it dethroned five-time defending champion San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals despite the Beermen’s twice-to-beat advantage.

    Not if Ginebra could help it.

    The Kings have won the tournament thrice, the last in the 2006-07 edition, and want nothing more than at least a crack at ending that long title drought.

    Ginebra stayed firmly on that course by topping the eliminations and then bundled out Rain or Shine.

    TNT has won the tournament five times, including three in a row from 2011. The Tropang Giga, who have won seven PBA titles in all, are ranged against a semis debutant in Phoenix.

    TNT beat the Fuel Masters 110-91 in the eliminations but are expected to have a tougher grind this time around not only because of the latter’s rock-steady gunner Matthew Wright, the ever-improving Jason Perkins and double-edged threat RJ Jazul.

    Since his reinstatement from a 16-month suspension last Oct. 26, Calvin Abueva has been a huge factor for Phoenix in its drive to a second semis stint since taking over the old Barako Bull franchise midway in the 2016 season. The team also gained the semis of last year’s Philippine Cup under Louie Alas but was beaten by SMB.

    Although a tamer version of his old fiery “Beast” persona, Abueva is still good for almost 14 points, close to 11 rebounds, 6.7 assists and loads of hustle plays in his first six games back.

    Phoenix needs to unleash all those weapons against an equally loaded TNT squad that features prolific Roger Pogoy, veteran leader Jayson Castro, Rayray Parks, Poy Erram and Troy Rosario, not to mention Ryan Reyes and David Semerad who can alternate in stymieing Abueva.