Gin Kings eye Top 2 and twice-to-beat edge in San Miguel Beer clash

TIM CONE — PBA.PH

Games Friday(Smart Araneta Coliseum)4:30 p.m. — TNT vs NorthPort7:30 p.m. — Ginebra vs San Miguel

RANGED against a Ginebra side that has just showcased its might against heavyweight Magnolia, San Miguel Beer (SMB) coach Jorge Gallent demands nothing but the very best effort from his unbeaten troops.

“Ginebra is one of the strongest teams here so we have to be prepared, we have to be consistent and give our 48 minutes of energy for us to have a chance to beating them,” Mr. Gallent said ahead of the titanic PBA Philippine Cup matchup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The defending champion Beermen stake their spotless 3-0 record and grip on pole position in the 7:30 p.m. tussle with Ginebra (3-1), which follows the opener between NorthPort (3-1) and TNT (2-2) at 4:30 p.m.

The Gin Kings enter the Big Dome court with the momentum of their 87-77 dispatching of the Hotshots in their Easter “Clasico.”

“That’s going to give us a lift more than anything else going into the San Miguel game,” said Ginebra mentor Tim Cone.

“Right now San Miguel is playing at a level they don’t look like they’re beatable. But we’ll see what we can do.”

The importance of this tussle in the overall scheme of things and the race for the Top 2 and twice-to-beat advantage isn’t lost on Mr. Cone.

“You’re always battling for that Top 2 so this is a big game in terms of Top 2 positioning (down the road). We know San Miguel is probably going to get one of those Top 2 positions and Magnolia’s probably going to get the second so beating Magnolia was really important to give us a shot at the Top 2,” said Mr. Cone.

“Not to say nobody else can get there but those two (SMB and Magnolia) seem like the favorites so if we can figure out a way to come out with a victory against San Miguel (too), it will be a big thing in terms of helping us to the Top 2.”

The crowd darlings, though, won’t have a full complement against the star-studded SMB core of June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Marcio Lassiter, Don Trollano and Jericho Cruz with Scottie Thompson sidelined by back injury.

As such, the Ginebra veterans Stanley Pringle and LA Tenorio and backup Nards Pinto carry heavier burden in running a cohesive game with Japeth Aguilar, Christian Standhardinger, Jamie Malonzo and Maverick Ahanmisi.

Meanwhile, the Batang Pier have reactivated William Navarro in place of Jeff Chan as they seek to make it four in a row in the battle with the Tropang Giga. TNT is out to get back on track after its close setback to SMB just before the two-week All Star and Holy Week break. — Olmin Leyba