Nov 17, 2020

Tropang Giga, Fuel Masters start best-of-five series

SMART Clark Giga City. - TNT coach Bong Ravena is not one to mince words, especially when it comes to his team's usual attitude in every game of the PBA Philippine Cup.

"We have to go out and get it," was Ravena's usual reply.

That is not about to change, especially now that the stakes are so much higher when the Tropang Giga mix it up with the surprising Phoenix Fuel Masters in their best-of-five semifinals starting Wednesday at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City.

It marks the first time since it acquired the old Barako Bull franchise and made its PBA debut midway in the 2016 season that Phoenix has gotten this far.

But after finishing the eliminations as the No. 2 seed and then dispatching Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok, a finalist in the same tourney the last two years, has cemented the Fuel Masters as a legitimate contender.

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The stock of Phoenix and coach Topex Robinson, appointed in an interim capacity only last September and named head coach just earlier this month, would be further boosted if they should prevail over TNT.

It should take a lot of doing.

While they have shown no signs of letting up or slowing down the Fuel Masters are still relatively newcomers in such a pressure-packed situation.

For their part, the Tropang Giga have been there before. Proof of that are the total five titles the Manny V.Pangilinan-owned franchise has won in the same tourney, including three straight from 2011-13.

One of the big questions begging for answers in this match-up would be how Phoenix's vaunted defense would hold up against TNT's assaults which could come from every direction.

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While top MVP candidate Matthew Wright, Jason Perkins, Justin Chua and RJ Jazul could each easily submit double-digit performances, their totals could be easily surpassed by the combined efforts of Roger Pogoy and Rayray Parks.

And TNT has the ever-reliable Jayson Castro to complement his teammates or lean on when everyone else struggles.

A glimpse would also be had as to how Poy Erram and Calvin Abueva fare for their respective teams in this series which may go the full route.

Acquired from NLEX in a three-team trade just before the tourney began, Erram has ably filled up the inside presence TNT lost when Kelly Williams retired before the bubble started.

Although tamer than his old fiery "Beast" persona, Abueva has been simply superb in churning out all-around contributions since being reinstated last Oct. 26. (NC)