Playoff Time: 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup Quarterfinals preview

The dust has finally settled on the hundreds of playoff scenarios that remained until the last weekend of eliminations. At last, we’re ready for the playoffs. But before we dive into the battles, we give you a quick preview of the quarterfinals match-ups of the 2017 PBA Governor’s Cup.

1Meralco Bolts vs 8Blackwater Elite

What makes this interesting?

Well, you have the best team in the conference going up against a team that was a pleasant surprise. I know Meralco has been playing out of their minds. They look hell-bent on avenging their Finals loss last season. But Blackwater has simply been making the right moves. From inserting Henry Walker to the picture to picking up locals like Allein Maliksi and Dave Marcelo, this squad has continuously taken steps towards the right direction.

Who to look out for?

Allen Durham will be a beast. He overpowers people. That’s what he does. But for Meralco to become successful, they will need Chris Newsome to keep playing at the high level that has been at over the past few games. New is balling out. And Meralco’s has experienced success because of it.

For Blackwater, it’s pretty much going to be in the hands of Henry Walker. How badly can he dominate? Will he have enough to carry the team on his shoulders? Blackwater has talented locals – especially with the moves they’ve been making recently. But while Maliksi, Mike DiGregorio and all the other dudes will make their marks, the fate of the Elite will mostly be up to the performance of Mr. Walker.

Which team wins?

I don’t think it’ll be that easy for Meralco. I honestly think the series will go two games. But I just don’t see Blackwater getting two wins over a team that has been playing its best basketball throughout the season. I’ll go with the Bolts.

2TNT KaTropa vs 7Rain or Shine Elasto Painters

What makes this interesting?

These two teams have met in the playoffs numerous times. They were two of the few teams that repeatedly made it to the semifinals a couple of years back. Now, however, ROS’ performance seems to be on downward trend. They were still good at 7-4, but they haven’t been the fearsome team that opponents didn’t want to face in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean that they can’t show some fight towards a TNT squad that seems to be peaking at the right time.

Who to look out for?

After Paul Lee and Jeff Chan’s departure, I was excited to see the emergence of Jericho Cruz and Maverick Ahanmisi. But instead of those guards, it was big man Raymond Almazan who stepped up and is making a case to be ROS’ franchise guy. He was already a good player. And now, with the experience he picked up with Gilas, Rock ‘N Roll Raymond has taken his game to the next level.

TNT has a lot of weapons. Even after the departure of Ranidel de Ocampo and Larry Fonacier, the team remains to be loaded with players who can hurt opponents in many ways. At the end of the day though, there was one dude who helped them have a shot at the top seed until the last day of eliminations – their import, Glen Rice, Jr. He will continue to be the most important piece on that TNT roster.

Which team wins?

TNT will post a lot of match-up problems for Rain or Shine. And while the Elasto Painters also boast of a deep line-up, I think the fire of the Tropa will eventually outpower their foes. TNT should not need the twice-to-beat incentive in this.

3Brgy. Ginebra San Miguel vs 6San Miguel Beermen

What makes this interesting?

In San Miguel last game of the eliminations, they went from looking like they could get the top seed to landing in sixth place. Now, they hold a twice-to-win disadvantage over the defending champions Ginebra. But we all know what San Miguel can do. They’ve come back from a 0-3 deficit in the Finals before. They’ve been the best team in the league all-season. Plus, they have a bigger mission – complete the grand slam.

I could go on and give you a million more reasons why this series would be interesting. But just trust me when I say: cancel all plans so you can watch Ginebra versus SMB.

Who to look out for?

To be honest, I’m not so sold on Terrence Watson. He’s good, yes. But I guess I’ve been spoiled with the numbers that other imports have been posting this conference. Good thing SMB has another guy who puts up import-like stat lines – June Mar Fajardo. In one game, the dude tallied 41 points and 17 rebounds. Isn’t that just crazy? Just the fact that he can get to those tallies automatically makes him the guy to look out for.

When SMB and Ginebra met in previous conferences, the one thing Ginebra struggled with was the lack of an inside presence to put in front of June Mar. Japeth Aguilar is great on the help defense. But one slight miscalculation from him and Fajardo gets his deuce. The story changes with the return of Greg Slaughter. Now there’s someone to match-up with June Mar. Justin Brownlee can reserve his energy for offense. For this, and for all the other ways he can hurt San Miguel, we need to put our focus on Slaughter.

Which team wins?

I’d take a pass if I could. This is just too difficult to predict. But fine, it has to be done. At the risk of pissing off the millions of Ginebra fans, I kind of feel that San Miguel has enough to pull an upset. SMB in two.

4Star Hotshots vs 5NLEX Road Warriors

What makes this interesting?

At certain points over the last two seasons, these two teams started rebuilding. From key players up to head coaches, they retooled. After a quick turnaround, they are now trying to reap the fruits of those risks. And in all fairness, both NLEX and Star are definitely shaping up to be contenders.

In fact, after NLEX got off to an amazing start to the conference, I never thought they’d fall out of the top four. But that last game loss to Star flipped things between these two teams. With that huge comeback that they completed, the Hotshots are now the ones enjoying the incentive. Well, it’s practically a best-of-three series with Star ahead, 1-0. Expect NLEX to come out looking for revenge.

Who to look out for?

I’m going to put my money on two youngsters here – Kevin Alas and Jio Jalalon. During the rebuilding phases that these two teams went on, Alas and Jalalon became pieces that NLEX and Star could – not really build around but – make great use of. And they’ve become such important parts of their squads.

Alas was responsible for the wins they racked up early in the Governors’ Cup. Jalalon has found a role in a Hotshots team that’s loaded with guards. Now, on a bigger stage, they can really show people that they’re made to ball with the best in the land.

Which team wins?

This could very well be a low-key series-to-watch. I don’t see this thing getting settled with just one game in the quarterfinals. But I also see it as the match up wherein the twice-to-beat advantage will really be used. I’m calling this Star in two games.

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