This is the Finals rematch everyone has been waiting for.
The Meralco Bolts, this conference’s number one seed, will be going up against Brangay Ginebra, the defending champions. Last year, Ginebra took home their first championship in eight years over the Bolts in dramatic fashion.
Meralco has improved, reloaded and brought back their core from last year’s Finals team. Ginebra welcomes back Greg Slaughter to their championship core and are ready to defend their championship over Meralco.
For the SLAM PH Four Quarters, the team takes a look at some key match-ups for the Finals.
Q1: LA Tenorio vs. Baser Amer
Jutt Sulit – This is not at all a downgrade from Jimmy Alapag vs LA Tenorio last year. Baser Amer has upped his game so well that he’s earned to be put side-by-side with LA Tenorio.
Last season, Meralco trotted out a point guard by committee. Amer was just one part of the platoon. This year, Amer has improved his game by leaps and bounds. In a lot of games this conference, Baser Amer has been Meralco’s best player. He was a big reason why the Bolts got past a tough Blackwater team in their do-or-die game and why they were able to sweep Star in the semis.
As for Tenorio, it’s no secret what he brings. His numbers may not jump out as much as Amer but he’s the engine that makes Ginebra run. The thing about Tenorio is he’s a steady presence but when he’s needed the most, he steps up and makes big plays. Just like in Game 4 of the semis against TNT.
This point guard battle is pivotal, more so than last year. If Amer can explode the way that he’s done plenty times this conference, he can swing games Meralco’s way. It will be up to Tenorio to contain him defensively while still running the show for Ginebra.
Q2: Joe Devance vs. Jared Dillinger
— LVJ (@lvjbasket) October 10, 2017
Levi Verora – The not-so-real Joe Devance-Jared Dillinger Twitter #pettywarz is something we all need. Not that this finals series lacks excitement but this is one of the match-ups that can spark more interest from the audience. What will they post the day after Game 1? What will Devance say if Dillinger had an off night? And so on.
Basketball-wise, Dillinger, who wasn’t able to play in last year’s Governors’ Cup finals, adds a dimension to Meralco. He is one of four Bolts averaging in double-digits. He is their top three-point shooter. He is big enough to perhaps defend Justin Brownlee for certain stretches.
On the other hand, Devance allows Ginebra more versatility on the floor. They can go big with him facilitating or a bit smaller with him playing the more conventional forward position.
These two will get their turns at defending each other too, so that is something fans are looking forward to enjoy.
Q3: Scottie Thompson vs. Chris Newsome
Aljo Dolores – Chris Newsome and Scottie Thompson must be destined to be rivals early in their respective careers. They were chosen one after the other during the 2015 PBA Draft. While Newsome was selected as last season’s ROY, It was Scottie who raised the Governor’s Cup trophy after that heated Ginebra-Meralco finals.
A year after, both of these young guns have etched their roles on their respective teams. During the 2017 Governor’s Cup eliminations, Newsome became one of the core players on Meralco’s rotation. The reigning ROY averaged 14.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 35.7 minutes of play. On the other end, Scottie is making the most out of the minutes that is given to him. He averaged 7.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists on 28.3 minutes per game.
These two are always ready to contribute, especially when facing each other. Looking at the three elimination round matchups of Ginebra and Meralco this season, Newsome averaged 14.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 39.1 minutes, while Scottie had 8.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4 assists on 28.9 minutes.
These guys might be the barometers for this finals rematch. Meralco will definitely need Newsome to score a lot. All of the Bolts’ losses in the elimination came when Newsome had less than 10 points game. Meanwhile, Ginebra will need Scottie to facilitate their offense, as all of their elimination round losses came when Scottie had three assists or less in the game (except versus Phoenix).
Expect Newsome and Thompson to be at the middle of the battleground as Ginebra and Meralco renew their rivalry.
Q4: Justin Brownlee vs. Allen Durham
Jon Rodriguez – Only two dates stood out for me in 2016: April 8 and October 19.
The first one I remember because it’s the day I proposed to my girlfriend, now wife. The second is the day Justin Brownlee became a Ginebra legend. It was stranger than fiction: Ginebra down 1-2 in the Finals; Ginebra down 13 at halftime of Game 6 (cue the customary Big J pep talk); Tied ballgame with 5 seconds left; Brownlee hits a buzzer-beating, 8-year championship drought-ending three over Allen Durham.
In 2017, I want only two dates to stand out: March 18 (the day I got married) and October 25, the scheduled Game 6 of the Ginebra vs Meralco finals rematch, but really, the Brownlee vs Durham finals rematch.
Durham has revenge numbers this year (25ppg, 20rpg, 7apg) and I want him to go Liam Neeson on Taken this time around. Tied ballgame with 5 seconds left, I want Durham to get the ball, look Brownlee in the eye, and then hit a buzzer-beating 3 over him for Meralco’s first title in franchise history. Then I want them to alternate buzzer beaters next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. I want more game-winners and more dates to stand out.
When my future son asks me, “Why do we need imports?” I want to reply with, “Because Brownlee vs Durham.”