ONE team is gunning for a title repeat, while the other one is looking for redemption.
Defending champion TNT and former winner San Miguel Beer, the top two teams all conference long, duke it out in Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup title showdown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game time is 6 p.m. with the Tropang Giga and the Beermen both well-rested and well-prepared following a one-day breather last Friday.
TNT coach Chot Reyes and San Miguel mentor Leo Austria underscored the importance of winning the opener of the best-of-seven series which is expected to go the full route.
“It’s too close to call. It’s 50/50,” said Reyes during the pre-finals presscon at Novotel last Friday.
“The important thing for us is to stay patient and understand how difficult this series is going to be. We know how strong the other team is and we just need to be prepared,” added Reyes, who is expected to miss two to three games in the series due to his commitment with the Pilipinas Gilas national team.
Reyes’ counterpart, Austria, is also bracing for a dog fight.
“Both teams are really competitive and are really preparing very hard for this series. We’ll see what happens,” said Austria.
San Miguel is expected to lean on Best Player of the Conference frontrunners June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Moala Tautuaa, Vic Manuel, Jericho Cruz and Rodney Brondial.
TNT, on the other hand, will rely on Jayson Castro, Mikey Williams, Roger Pogoy Glenn Khobuntin, Poy Erram Kelly Williams and Troy Rosario.
TNT and San Miguel took different routes in advancing to the finals.
The Tropang Giga eliminated Magnolia Hotshots in six games in their best-of-seven semifinal series
The Beermen, on the other hand, needed a seventh and deciding game to frustrate Meralco in their own semifinal duel.
There will also be a score to settle for SMB.
The Tropang Giga went on a hot shooting spree in a deciding Game 7 tiff, gunning down the Beermen, 97-79, to advance to a finals duel with Magnolia and subsequently mark its own return to the throne, ending long years of drought.