Tuesday, January 21, 2014

PBA 2014 Philippine Cup Quarterfinals Predictions

After Meralco Bolts' ouster by the Alaska Aces in a win-or-go-home game, the die is cast and the lineup for the quarterfinals is now complete. Survivor team Alaska will be up against the people's champion, Barangay Ginebra. Armed with a winning streak record, Rain or Shine Elasto Painters is poised to duel with the Globalport Batang Pier squad. Petron Blaze Boosters and the Barako Bull Energy are set to duke it out in a best-of-three series. Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters and San Mig Coffee Mixers are likewise slated to burn the quarters in a series of three games.

Which teams will secure a spot in the semifinals? Which team will fizzle out in the quarterfinals? Here's my predictions for the PBA 2014 Philippine Cup predictions.

Barangay Ginebra versus Alaska Aces

Milk and gin don't mix well. The outcome of this match is contingent upon the question of who will play better defense. It's a given: Ginebra will flex its muscle inside the painted area courtesy of the twin towers Slaughter and Aguilar. Accordingly, expect Alaska to prime its interior D. Coach Trillo might enforce the zone defense to do this. Help defense will also be the Aces' go-to strategy once Slaughter gets the rock deep in the paint. But be warned. This can potentially open up outside opportunities for Tenorio and the rest of Ginebra's snipers. Remember that at the time (in fact, the only time) that these two teams met in the eliminations, Tenorio exploded in the first quarter to hand Ginebra its double-digit lead. For its part, Ginebra has to limit Casio's offense (Abueva's recent injury contra Meralco Bolts might bar him from playing his finest hour, if ever he gets to play). Ginebra can go either quicker (Monfort) or bigger (Helterbrand) to castrate Alaska's triangle offense with Casio at its apex. In all, complacency is Ginebra's bigger enemy.

Prediction: Ginebra topples Alaska outright. While Alaska has the momentum coming off fresh from two very crucial wins to extend their bid for a shot at the finals, Ginebra will dominate in the painted territory in terms of rebounds and inside scoring.

Rain or Shine Elasto Painters versus Globalport Batang Pier

The first time these two teams squared off in the eliminations, Globalport won by a slim margin of two, with Sol Mercado and Jay Washington leading the pack for Batang Pier with 20 points apiece (almost half of Globalport's total score). In their second tiff, Rain or Shine won by eleven over the Mercado-less Globalport. It's easy to see that Mercado's performance will influence the outcome of this best-of-three series. If Mercado is able to play like a beast (Washington is out for the conference due to an injury), Globalport has a good chance of sealing a semifinals spot. Otherwise, Rain or Shine will dictate the series with Paul Lee doing most of the damage. While Globalport may be able to snatch a win in their first meeting in the quarterfinals, Rain or Shine will be able to contain Mercado in their second match.

Prediction: Globalport takes the first. But Rain or Shine foils Globalport's semifinals campaign by coming out strong in their second game as Mercado shoots below 30 percent and rookies Romeo and Garcia's shooting percentage skid. Rain or Shine's twice-to-beat advantage preempts a third game.

Petron Blaze Boosters versus Barako Bull Energy

On both occasions when these two teams skirmished, winning margins were slim. In their first outing, Petron won, 96-90. The second time around, Barako Bull won, 92-88. But with behemoth June Mar Fajardo back in good health, expect his inside presence to take a huge chunk of Petron's offense and defense (an aside: center Dorian Peña isn't getting any younger while Fajardo is just about to explode in the PBA scene). And let's not forget about Petron's Arwind Santos, too. Meanwhile, Dennis Miranda and JC Intal's scoring won't be enough to propel Barako Bull to a single win. The same goes for Mick Pennisi's hot hands. The most that can happen for Barako is for their losses to come only within single digit. Otherwise, landslide wins await Petron if Barako Bull's shooters go cold.

Prediction: Petron foils Barako's semifinals berth after winning two straight games in their best-of-three slugfest.

Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters versus San Mig Coffee Mixers

Between the pair of best-of-three matches in the quarterfinals, this is perhaps the more thrilling episode. The first and only time these two contenders clashed in the eliminations, SMC bulldozed TNT by thirteen points (100-87), which was very recent (five days ago as of this posting). TNT had 12 turnovers and a sloppy 21.4% 3-point shooting (6 out of 28 attempts), with Fonacier nill out of 5 treys and 3 TOs for 37 minutes. On the other hand, SMC had become more efficient in their last several games since their rough start. But TNT has perhaps the bigger story. Right after the eliminations, TNT enlisted KG Canaleta from Air21 Express (while Air21 got Eloy Poligrates, Sean Anthony, and TNT's first round pick for the 2016 draft). There is little doubt that Canaleta will be the game changer in this series, assuming he gets to play quality minutes for TNT. Interestingly, putting Canaleta in the mix will be a hit-or-miss-by-a-wide-mile for Coach Norman Black. In other words, it will be a gamble. TNT's team chemistry on the court may fly or flop, and veteran coach Tim Cone of SMC might capitalize on this. Will Canaleta be the one to break the groove of SMC?

Prediction: Winning the series by 2-1, San Mig Coffee Mixers hands Talk 'N Text its first major upset since winning the championship three times.

Semifinalists: Ginebra, Rain or Shine, Petron, and San Mig Coffee Mixers. In other words, I predict that Ginebra will enter the semifinals against San Mig Coffee, while Rain or Shine will battle Petron. Will I be correct? Maybe yes, maybe no. We'll see.

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