And then there were two. Two juggernaut squads. Two major conglomerates. Two stars.
But then, only one can emerge victorious.
More than two months after PBA Season 47 tipped off with the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup, the San Miguel Beermen and the TNT Tropang Giga will square off in the finals. It’s fair to say that it’s their tournament and the rest of the league is merely playing in it, since the Beermen and the Tropang Giga won 10 of the last 13 Philippine Cup championships and six of the last seven All-Filipino titles.
The successes of both SMB and TNT have been feathers on the caps of the San Miguel Corporation group and MVP’s group of companies, who both may be involved in other industries yet continue to put a premium towards sports, particularly basketball. With the significant resources put into their teams, talent was never an issue for either, as both San Miguel and the Tropang Giga have found ways to reload rather than rebuild.
Aside from being the crown jewel of the MVP Group, TNT has often been seen as the feeder squad of the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team, so it’s not surprising to see some of their stars included as part of the core for international tournaments.
With the talent on hand, it’s then an expectation for championships to come in bunches and the five championships in the last 13 years sounds fine (and is more than what some teams have won in their entire existence) unless you remember that SMB has won five straight from 2014 to 2019.
Having Mikey Williams raises the chances of adding to their trophy total, as he has been virtually unstoppable when his shot is falling. Williams and RR Pogoy have also become the new guard (no pun intended) for the Tropang Giga as Jimmy Alapag has been long gone and Jayson Castro has taken on a reduced role. Castro, though, has still found ways to make winning plays for TNT.
While behind sister team Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings in terms of popularity, the Beermen have constructed a roster that has helped them remain as the winningest team (title-wise) in the PBA. Rosters like that of SMB typically have moving parts, but the trio of June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross have been the constants apart from the winning.
San Miguel and the Tropang Giga have contrasting styles on offense, with the former being an inside-scoring team, while the latter gets things going offensively with their perimeter scoring. Much of this also has to do with how SMB and TNT have stars that cater to their offensive philosophies.
Fajardo can be difficult to contain even after coming back from a major leg injury and he has been a willing passer, something that has benefitted the likes of Lassiter, Ross, Jericho Cruz, CJ Perez, and Simon Enciso.
Meanwhile, Williams can make plays for himself and his teammates, while Castro’s move to the bench helps sustain the Tropang Giga’s production regardless of who is on the floor.
The Beermen’s 115-99 win over TNT was a little over a month ago and one game, especially in the preliminary round, should not define the direction of this championship series. SMB took things inside and happily feasted on whatever the Tropang Giga defense gave them, especially as TNT struggled with their shot.
Sure, there will be some takeaways that will be useful, maybe only until the first game, but at this point in the conference, what matters more are the in-game adjustments and taking advantage of any openings that may arise due to how matchups unfold. Both teams have made some nuances to their strategies over the course of the season as well and there will be more to come given what’s on the line.
The 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals between the San Miguel Beermen and the TNT Tropang Giga will be a star-studded affair that will end with either a repeat or a return to glory. Both teams have gone through respective changes and obstacles but they have nevertheless remained within striking distance of a title, one that is within their grasp.
Unfortunately, only one can claim the title yet it will surely be a series to remember.