Barangay Ginebra San Miguel is on a roll, but it isn’t the same for TNT, which is struggling to stay afloat for a quarterfinals berth in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.
On Sunday, the two champions of the past season will square off in the main game of the scheduled double header at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings, on the crest of a four-game winning run, are looking to stay in the running for a possible top two berth as they take on the Tropang Giga in the main game at 6:45 p.m.
Converge, the hottest team in the tournament, tries to extend its winning run to eight as it battles NorthPort in the other game at 4:30 p.m.
Just last week, Tim Cone of Barangay Ginebra and Chot Reyes of TNT were allies, but they will switch on that rivalry mode when their respective teams troop to the hard court and resume unfinished business in this crucial stage of the elimination round.
Cone, the winningest coach in PBA history, had just added another feather to his cap by becoming the first mentor in the league to achieve 1,000 wins, but that won’t mean anything if the Gin Kings fail to grab a bonus — the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal round.
With still a game-and-a -half behind Bay Area and Converge, both carrying an 8-2 mark, Barangay Ginebra needs to win its remaining games to secure an outright top two berth at the end of the elimination round.
At 6-2, the Gin Kings have pretty much in control of their destiny as they were able to beat the Dragons in the early phase of the elimination round and will still face the FiberXers on 30 November.
Cone will be more locked in facing Reyes and his embattled troops and although they’ve been sharing notes the past few weeks over at Gilas Pilipinas, both bench tacticians will try to outdo each other once their respective mother teams duke it out inside the court.
“I certainly know his offense better than I did a couple of months ago,” said Cone in jest.
Turning serious, Cone believes it all boils down to execution.
“It’s not about me knowing what he does, but it’s really about the execution. If they execute the way they want to execute, they’re gonna score on our defense no matter what we know,” said Cone. “It’s the same thing with Chot.”
“Don’t forget, Chot was my assistant for many years, so he knows my personality, he knows the basics of what I want to do and that’s what his advantage over the last few years. Now that I’m his assistant, maybe the advantage will swing back to me a little bit.”
“We’ve gone back and forth, as head coach and assistant. Back in Alaska, he was my assistant, then Centennial Team he was my assistant. Then we went to the national team, I was his assistant and now again, I’m his assistant. It’s really been back and forth. He knows me, and I know him. That’s why, it’s truly gonna be a player’s game out there.”
If Ginebra is making a chase down to move up to the top two, Converge is trying to put its foot forward to stay in the running for the top two berth.
The FiberXers are hoping to control their destiny by winning over a Batang Pier side that also won back-to-back games and stayed in the hunt for a playoff spot.