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San Miguel wary of dangerous Ginebra

PHOTOGRAPHs COURTESY OF PBA JUNE Mar Fajardo of San Miguel, Christian Standhardinger of Ginebra, Mark Barroca of Magnolia and Jason Perkins of Phoenix are tipped to step up when the semifinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup erupt.

San Miguel Beer may be the hottest team in the Philippine Basketball Association.

But for Beermen coach Jorge Gallent, it doesn’t mean a thing.

The Beermen put their six-game winning streak on the line when they battle Barangay Ginebra in Game 1 of their Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five semifinal series today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Game time is set at 8 p.m. with the Beermen believed to have a slight edge after shutting down their campaign in the elimination round on a red-hot note.

Prior to that, topseed Magnolia and Phoenix Super LPG will also open their semifinal series at 4 p.m.

The Hotshots, who finished the eliminations with a 9-2 win-loss card before making short work of TNT Tropang Giga in the quarterfinals, are tipped to go all out to post a 1-0 edge against the Fuel Masters squad, which had to flirt with disaster before escaping Meralco in the quarterfinals.

The Beermen are the league’s hottest team after winning their last five matches to finish the eliminations with an 8-4 card that gave them the No. 2 spot in the quarterfinals.

San Miguel beat another hot team, Rain or Shine, in the quarterfinals to march to the semifinals oozing with confidence.

Still, Gallent said they refuse to fall into a false sense of complacency brought by their long winning streak.

“We’re not concerned about the winning streak, but we’re treating it like a ladder. We’ve already gone through the quarterfinals and now the next step is the semifinals,” Gallent said.

“We’re thinking now of Ginebra.”

In their lone elimination round encounter, the Beermen pulled off a 95-82 win over the Kings. But San Miguel will be coming in even more dangerous as they now have a deeper roster with the inclusion of seven-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo and explosive import Bennie Boatwright.

Ginebra coach Tim Cone said they have to find a way to stop the Fajardo-Boatwright tandem if they want to defend their title.

“It’s a dilemma all teams will have to figure it out and we’re going to try and figure it out. If we can’t, we’re not going to win the series,” said Cone, who is expected to turn to Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar and Tony Bishop in containing Fajardo and Boatwright.

After all, Boatwright can’t be overlooked as he posted averages of 40.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 42.5 minutes a game.

On the other hand, Bishop is averaging just 23.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while getting a ton of help from the rest of the Kings like LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson and Maverick Ahanmisi.

The series between the Bolts and the Fuel Masters is also a must-watch.

After being dragged by the Bolts to a no-tomorrow encounter following a hard-fought 116-107 win that needed three overtimes, the Fuel Masters regrouped and came up with a better game plan to carve out an 88-84 win on Sunday.

But the Fuel Masters will be facing a well-rested Hotshots.

The veteran core of Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and 46-year-old Rafi Reavis is no longer getting any younger so it has to win a title as soon as possible.

This season, the Hotshots came out fully prepared with Barroca at the helm, posting averages of 14.1 points, 4.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

“We really prepared hard for this season,” said Barroca, who’ll be playing his 555th straight game at the start of their semifinals series.

“The long break that we had before the start of the season and our early elimination in the Governors’ Cup last season allowed us more time to prepare for this one.”

Phoenix coach Jamike Jarin said they will work hard to pen a fitting ending to their championship run.

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