After one month of intense, high-quality elimination round basketball, we’re now down to the final four teams.
After a wild Quarterfinal round, Barangay Ginebra took down the rising Rain or Shine, Phoenix eliminated Magnolia in a wild match-up, TNT disposed Alaska and Meralco ended the six-peat dream of San Miguel.
Let’s check out the match-up between the Fuel Masters and the Tropang Giga.
These two teams have been very impressive in the elimination round and continued their momentum in the playoffs.
Despite the fact that they were favored to win, the Tropang Giga faced early adversity against the Aces. However, they sent a statement to the rest of the teams in the tournament by turning an 11-point deficit into a lead that stretched to 26 at its peak. TNT, as expected, sent the young and deadly Aces home after a dominant 104-83 win in the quarterfinals.
The duo of RR Pogoy and Ray Parks took over for the stacked TNT squad. Pogoy finished with 34 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals while Parks had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Phoenix had a bit of tougher road to the semifinal round.
Last year’s first runner ups Magnolia gave the Fuel Masters quite a scare but Matthew Wright came up big to give his squad an 89-88, win.
Wright had to pull off one last crazy clutch shot to give them the win, and he finished with 32 points, five rebounds and nine assists. Jason Perkins backed him up with 16 points and six rebounds.
TNT may have shown dominance in their quarterfinal match-up, but Phoenix showed grace under pressure and clutch genes as they came up with a very well-played win against a scrappy team like the Hotshots.
The Beast factor
The first time these two teams faced was back in October 19 and Tropang Giga took the win in that match-up, 110-91.
However, in that match-up the Fuel Masters didn’t have Calvin Abueva back in the lineup.
Since the return of ‘The Beast’, Phoenix have been playing like a championship contender, winning seven of their last eight games since the elimination round. On the flip side, TNT showed some vulnerability in its last few games.
Roster wise, the Tropang Giga have the advantage in height with Poy Erram and Troy Rosario hovering the paint, however big bodied guys like Perkins, Justin Chua and Dave Marcelo could out power the slim twin towers of TNT.
Maybe being physical especially with Erram would put Phoenix to an advantage. As we all know, Erram is not the most patient player on the team.
Points to prove
This game also has more on the line. It’s not just the chance to make the Finals.
As we all know, Jayson Castro has admitted in the beginning of the season that he is out to win a title as it’s been a long time since he he’s added another trophy to his resume.
As for Parks, he wants to remind everyone what kind of a player he is, what he can do on the court, and what a better way is there to send that statement by being dominant and carrying his team to the finals?
Wright has been playing like an MVP for Phoenix this season and if he could help topple this super team, he would make a huge case for Best Player of the Conference.
For Abueva, since being on the sidelines for 16 months, there’s no better way to make a return than by helping his team reach the Finals.
In this series, we will see the duel between two of the best two guards in the league in Wright and Pogoy and the much-awaited meeting of Abueva and Parks. The latter pair famously don’t like each other, and it should add a lot of spice to the series.
The last time that Phoenix reached the semifinals in the PH Cup was last season, where the eventual champion Beermen took them down in five games of a best-of-seven series.
The last time TNT reached the semifinals of the PH Cup was back in the 2016-2017 season, where they lost in seven games at the hands of San Miguel as well.
It’ll be very interesting how a best-of-five series between these two teams will play out. Game 1 will be this Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.
Who’s your pick for the series? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!