Barangay Ginebra head coach Tim Cone acknowledges that his squad faces a formidable task taking on 3-time defending champion San Miguel Beer in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
Although Ginebra beat the Beermen in their last playoff encounter in the 2017 Governors' Cup — a 1-game quarterfinal — Cone said battling San Miguel in a tournament without American reinforcements presents a trickier situation.
The teams open their best-of-7 series at Araneta Coliseum 7 p.m. on Friday.
"We knocked them out as we had Justin (Brownlee). We don't have Justin now. We're a different team without Justin and they're a different team in all-Filipino,” Cone said in an article posted on the PBA website.
“They're better in all-Filipino than with imports. There's the difference."
Ginebra knows what to expect of San Miguel, which features the dependable core of Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Arwind Santos and reigning league MVP June Mar Fajardo.
"We know how good they are. Motivated or unmotivated, it doesn't really matter, they are still great,” Cone said. “We're gonna have a hard time.”
Greg Slaughter's health (ankle) is an x-factor for Ginebra; he's listed as doubtful for Game 1, but Cone sees him rejoining the team midway through the series.
Without Slaughter in the past week or so, Ginebra reached this point by beating Rain Or Shine 3 straight times — the first in the teams' final elimination-round game, and the next 2 in the quarterfinals.
In that stretch, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and Sol Mercado were instrumental for Cone.
Even with its current roster of healthy players performing optimally, Cone knows it'll be an uphill battle against San Miguel without Slaughter.
"Big thing for us is whether Greg can play. That will really help us equalize. That would be the great equalizer," he said.
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