After all the pre-finals hype and hoopla, titleholder Barangay Ginebra and challenger Meralco finally let their game do the talking on the floor as they begin their best-of-seven showdown for the ultimate prize in the PBA Governors Cup at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena Friday.
It's a sequel to their title face-off in the same tourney last year won by the Gin Kings on a dramatic buzzer-beating three-pointer by import Justin Brownlee.
Both teams travelled to the Quezon provincial capital a day ahead of the match so they could hold a practice session and have a better feel of the court for the series opener to be tipped off at 7 p.m.
After practice, both declared they're ready for each other in what could well be a long, grind-out series.
"It's gonna be tough, and it's gonna be rough," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone considering the great motivation of both sides to win.
It's an expected cutthroat duel between corporate rivals, with one chasing a breakthrough PBA championship and the other shooting for a first-ever title repeat.
Technically, Cone also sees an exciting battle between size versus versatility.
The Gin Kings are expected to use their height advantage to the hilt while the Bolts can play big or small, depending on the pace they want to play.
"We couldn't pick a higher quality opponent. They have all the bases covered. They're the most dominant team in the conference, and that's the challenge out there for us," Cone also said.
The Ginebra tactician said it would be hard for them to dictate the matchups "because (Meralco) has a lot of versatility."
"We'll always have the bigger team. But they also have got the size, and they have a good balance that they can play the pace that they want to play," Cone pointed out.
"A great problem for us is their size. We really can play big or small but we can't be bigger than them," said Meralco coach Norman Black, for their part.
Black, however, stressed they're motivated to grind it out and win.
His troops said they're looking at no other options but deliver a first crown to the Meralco franchise.
"We have experienced to be in the finals last year. The next goal is to win the championship," said Black.
"The last time around, I felt we're taking in the moment as first timers in the finals. I thought this time around, it's gonna be different. We've had the whole year to prepare for this. This time around, it's not just being in the championship, we're here to win it," said Chris Newsome.
The Kings see a tougher Meralco team than the one they faced last year.
"No. 1 is that they're highly motivated. They're aching to get back at us. No. 2 is the addition of Ranidel de Ocampo. No. 3, Baser Amer and Chris Newsome have improved a lot from last year," said Ginebra chief playmaker LA Tenorio.
They slug it out Friday to start what could well be a fortnight of slam-bang competition.