MANILA — Barangay Ginebra and the Meralco Bolts look to gain a headstart in the PBA Governors' Cup Finals as the championship series begins on Tuesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Initially scheduled for Wednesday night, the first game of the best-of-seven series between both teams was pushed a night earlier to give them ample time to rest and prepare for Game 2 on Friday night at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
Both teams are facing off in the finals of the last conference of the season for the third time in four years, triggering talks on whether a new rivalry is now brewing.
Both team coaches, however, somehow downplayed the talks.
"A rivalry means both teams are winning, and they [Barangay Ginebra] won both championship series. So in that sense, it's not much of a rivalry," said Norman Black, the Bolts' mentor, noting that the Barangay won the two previous championship meetings in 2016 and 2017.
"I think we have to beat them a few more times before you can actually call it a rivalry," he added.
"I think that's really defined more by the press and the fans. They decide whether this is a rivalry or not. I think that's really dictated by the fans' interest and how the press mix it up," Ginebra's chief tactician, Tim Cone, said.
The difference from the previous two finals, however, is that while Ginebra's core is essentially intact with only Stanley Pringle as its notable addition, Meralco got significant upgrades to its lineup in center Raymond Almazan, wing scorer Allein Maliksi, and rookie swingman Bong Quinto, who has been a revelation despite being a second-round pick in last year's draft.
That is why Cone is not surprised if the series once again goes the full seven games or, as he joked, even a "Game 10".
"We plan on playing a Game 7. We've been looking through that. We try to watch the players' minutes and practice so that we don't wear them out so we have something left in Game 7," Cone said. (PNA)