MANILA, Philippines – The best-of-seven Finals showdown between Barangay Ginebra and Meralco figures to be a grind-it-out battle between two of the best defensive teams in the PBA.
In a rematch of their classic encounter from last year, the Gin Kings and the Bolts will go at each other again, with the perennial crowd favorites eyeing to retain their crown while Meralco seeks redemption from last season's heartbreaking loss.
Both Meralco coach Norman Black and Ginebra coach Tim Cone are already anticipating another hard-fought series.
"It's gonna be tough, it's gonna be rough," predicted Cone, whose Ginebra squad turned back San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals and TNT KaTropa in the semis to advance to the championship round.
"I just think that we couldn't have picked a more high quality opponent, or a better defensive team," he added. "They have all the bases covered, and they have been the dominant team this conference. We have our challenge out there, but our guys are ready."
Black was equally pleased to be going up against the Gin Kings in the championship round, saying: "I think the two best teams are in the Finals."
"Both teams are very good defensive teams," he added. "So I expect this to be a defensive struggle for how many games it will go."
Meralco is the stingiest team in the PBA so far in the Governors' Cup, allowing only 88.81 points per game on 41.48% shooting. Ginebra, meanwhile, allows its foes to score 96.88 points per contest, but limits them to a paltry 40.27% clip.
Aside from their excellent defense, Cone is also wary of Meralco's versatility. He noted that the Bolts can switch up their line-up, and are equally comfortable playing "small ball" or bully ball inside the paint.
"They show you a whole bunch of different looks," he observed, pointing out that import Allen Durham is the key to Meralco's versatility. "We're always going to be the bigger team with Greg (Slaughter) and Japeth (Aguilar), but they have size, strength, and quickness, so they can play the way they want to play."
Black conceded that they have the edge in terms of versatility, but he stressed that in terms of size, they are truly on the disadvantage.
"They constantly pound the ball inside, and they can just overpower people," said Black of the Gin Kings, who have gotten superb performances from Slaughter in the Governors' Cup. "We can go big, we can go small, but we cannot be as big as them."
"The important thing is to control the rebounds," he said emphatically. "If we get stops, we have to make sure that they won't get second chance points. That will give us a chance to run."
Game 1 of the best-of-seven Finals is on Friday at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena.
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