Ginebra and Phoenix eye breakthough win in pivotal Game 2 of semis 

Ginebra and Phoenix eye breakthough win in pivotal Game 2 of semis 

Games Friday
Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena
4 p.m. — San Miguel Beer vs Barangay Ginebra
8 p.m. — Magnolia vs Phoenix
* SMB, Magnolia leads series, 1-0

THE BURDEN of winning Game 2 is heavier on the shoulders of defending champion Ginebra and breakthrough-seeking Phoenix.

Failure to quickly strike back from their opening heartbreaker will put their respective rivals, San Miguel Beer (SMB) and Magnolia, a step closer to the clincher in the pretty short race-to-three PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal duel.

Worse, a second straight defeat will lead to the toughest possible situation for the Gin Kings and the Fuel Masters, who will then have to string up three wins in a row to salvage a stint in the finale.

Paramount for Ginebra and Phoenix going to today’s pivotal second matches at the MOA Arena is to find countermeasures to what worked for the opposition in the series kickoff last Wednesday.

The Gin Kings yielded a close 90-92 setback to the Beermen in Game 1, doomed by a couple of missed defensive rebounds and a critical offensive error in the dying seconds.

“We are going to try to find a way to beat this good team, tough team,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said ahead of their 4 p.m. tiff with SMB and its current iteration of the “Death Squad.”

“They have a lot of different kinds of weapons. They got their own version of the ‘Death Five’ except that (import Bennie) Boatwright is playing Arwind Santos. It’s like Arwind and June Mar (Fajardo) together and the ‘Death Five’ except Mr. Boatwright is five inches taller, 30 pounds heavier, and shoots the ball as well as Arwind did. Just makes our job even harder.”

Youth-laden Phoenix fought the playoffs-savvy Hotshots toe-to-toe in a duel that went down to the wire before conceding, 79-82.

“Going to Game 1, most of their players have semifinal experience. That was their big advantage. Now, after Game 1, the Phoenix Fuel Masters roster, we all have semifinal experience. So that’s what we needed. We should be fine coming into Game 2,” said a defiant Phoenix mentor Jamike Jarin.

Magnolia and SMB recognize the extra work needed to repeat against their opponents.

“We just won the (first) game so obviously they’re going to do all they can to win the next one. It’s a big game so for us, we have to do better, learn from our mistakes (in Game 1),” said Magnolia import Tyler Bey. — Olmin Leyba