November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Two deserving teams to dispute finals -- analyst

WHILE the San Miguel Beermen and TNT KaTropa facing in the finals of a Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournament after six years has some “oddness” to it, still there is no denying that the two deserve to face in the championship of the 2017 Commissioner’s Cup and should be counted on to give an exciting series, one local basketball analyst said.

Set to begin tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the Beermen and KaTropa reengage in the finals since the 2011 Governors’ Cup with all arrows pointing to a competitive series considering how both teams made their way to the “Big Dance.”

“If you told me at the start of the tournament that San Miguel and TNT would face in the finals I would say it’s a bit weird. I mean, considering the kind start teams like Alaska, Meralco and Rain or Shine had, apart from the usual contenders, you can point out to a lot of possibilities,” said Levi Verora, Jr. in an interview with BusinessWorld.

“But San Miguel and TNT showed their true worth as the tournament progressed. They are two amazing franchises and deserve to be in the finals. The Beermen have been a staple in the finals of late while TNT struggled last year but it seems it does well in the Commissioner’s Cup,” added the analyst, who writes for SLAM Philippines and covers games of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).

Mr. Verora went on to say that the San Miguel-TNT series should be an engaging one as the two teams always “aim for excellence” and play with so much pride.

Key for San Miguel, he said, is to get the most from its core, which has proven itself to be the best in the local pro league.

“The Beermen should utilize their numbers, especially its core of June Mar [Fajardo], Alex [Cabagnot], Chris [Ross], Arwind [Santos], Marcio [Lassiter] and import [Charles] Rhodes. We always hear ‘strength in numbers’ and it is the same case for them. If they get their full attack going they will be difficult to stop,” he said.

“On the part of TNT, defense will be important for them, especially against Fajardo. Right now the status of hulking import Joshua Smith is still uncertain because of his foot injury but if he is able to play in the series he will make a difference as he can do single coverage against Fajardo. Just the same, TNT has the depth to keep in step with San Miguel with guys like Kelly [Williams], [RR] Pogoy and RR Garcia playing well of late to help their main stalwarts,” Mr. Verora added.

The PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals series should go the full route of seven games, said Mr. Verora, with San Miguel emerging on top.

“TNT is not going to back down against San Miguel as we have seen in the previous tournament, Philippine Cup, where it took the eventual champions to seven games. But San Miguel has proven itself time and time again able to adjust to every situation it is placed in and close out things, and this series should not be any different,” the analyst said.

San Miguel booked a spot in the finals after defeating the Star Hotshots in four games in the semifinals with TNT doing the same against the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in their own final four series.

Game One of the best-of-seven PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals is set at 7 p.m.