Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone has a blunt assessment of his team's chances against San Miguel Beer in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series that begin Friday.
Without Greg Slaughter, Cone and his crew face long odds.
Cone has said he expects his big man, rehabilitating a sprained ankle, to suit up at one point during the series, but isn't optimistic he'd be ready for Game 1.
"Given another day or two, he may play," Cone said after Ginebra ousted Rain Or Shine via 2-0 sweep of their quarterfinal series.
"We do expect him back sometime in the series, I hope we don't fall to far behind without him so he can make an impact."
If Ginebra is looking for a successful formula to shock San Miguel in the series opener, the team doesn't have to look further than its lone meeting this year with the defending champions.
Ginebra ticked off 2 items on its to-do list to win 100-96 on January 28 without not just Slaughter but also Joe Devance.
- First, Ginebra's frontline — or what was left of it — got the job done on the offensive end.
Jervy Cruz contributed 17 points, rarely used Raymond Aguilar started and scored 16 points and 2 3-pointers, while Kevin Ferrer finished with 11 points and also a pair of 3-pointers.
- Second, Ginebra also outshot San Miguel from behind the arc, making 31% (8 of 21) compared with the Beermen's 17% (5 of 29).
- And third, the team's stars, LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar, were aggressive in making plays, each of them leading the way with 23 points in a win despite June Mar Fajardo tallying 33 points on 12 of 16 shooting from the field, 9 free throws, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Entering Friday's game, Fajardo is coming off a 35-point, 11-rebound effort versus TNT.
It's obvious the stakes are much higher now, and at this stage San Miguel is known to be mentally sharper and never let its guard down.
Plus this time the Beermen will have a healthy Alex Cabagnot, who missed the January 28 game because of an injury.
A game in the semifinals and a meeting in the elimination round aren't comparable, but if Ginebra fails to duplicate 2 out of the 3 aforementioned factors its Game 1 fortunes without Slaughter — or until he returns — look less promising.
"San Miguel, what can you say? They won 3 championships in a row for a reason," Cone said.
"We face the monster, that's San Miguel. You can refer that to San Miguel or you can refer that to June Mar. But we got that coming up."
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