The Noob's Guide to the PBA Philippine Cup Finals

Who will prevail, the powerhouse or the "full house"? (file photo)

By Ivan Saldajeno

IT boils down to this.

Ginebra and San Miguel collide for the PBA Philippine Cup championship in a seven-game series beginning Friday.

But before the fireworks, let's define to the younger fans what this showdown is all about.

An underrated rivalry

They may be known as the original "San Miguel derby" before the San Miguel Corporation set its sights on buying the Purefoods-Hormel Company from the Ayalas and the Cosmos Bottling Corporation from RFM (which led to RFM's PBA franchise being renamed as Coca-Cola, although there were debates on whether they shall be counted under one lineage or not as RFM's PBA squad bore the name Swift, which was not part of the Cosmos sale; Coke has since become an independent company and its PBA franchise would be sold to GlobalPort), but the San Miguel-Ginebra rivalry is something that is being talked about less often than the other two rivalries pitting SMC squads, the San Miguel-Purefoods rivalry (also underrated, by the way) and the Manila Clasico.

Still, there were intense playoff battles between San Miguel and Ginebra, some of which came during the late 80's and the early 90's.

In fact, a 1990 playoff game between them was even made available in video shops.

Another matchup to remember would be their 1997 Commissioner's Cup knockout semifinal game that went to double overtime (you can still find it on Youtube). Ginebra would survive the 58-minute marathon and eventually win the championship.

Mark Caguioa's first finals appearance also came against San Miguel... right in his first conference, the 2001 Philippine Cup!

Prior to Friday night, San Miguel and Ginebra met in the finals four times, but the most recent one, the 2009 Fiesta Conference Finals, was an emotional one, especially if you consider what happened right after Game 2 of that series, when a fuming Danny Ildefonso confronted a heckling fan at the stands only to be pacified by cooler heads.

Powerhouse versus "full house"

During the press conference for the finals series on Wednesday, San Miguel coach Leo Austria somehow joked about how life has been for the two sides.

"At the start of the season, sinasabi sila, 'Powerhouse ang San Miguel,' pero ang kalaban namin, full house," said Austria.

In a way, it's half-meant.

The Beermen have always been dominant thanks to a star-studded lineup featuring Junemar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, and Chris Ross.

But their opponents for all the marbles? The Barangay, who have the crowd always by their side.

Even Coach Tim Cone, despite already coaching Ginebra for four conferences, remains amazed by the fan support.

"The crowd did it for us," Cone said about getting the wins.

In a recent survey, San Miguel is among the top crowd drawers as well like Ginebra, so sellout crowds should be expected.

A bigger trophy on the line

Of course, a championship is at stake in the best-of-seven finals, but for San Miguel, an even greater honor awaits if the team gets to four wins first.

The so-called "Perpetual Trophy" is given to the club which wins the Philippine Cup title thrice in consecutive fashion.

Only one team accomplished a Philippine Cup three-peat in league history, TNT, which SMB ironically beat in the semifinals, from 2011-2013.

However, current Meralco Bolts coach Norman Black took over for the KaTropa in 2013 after Chot Reyes, who led them to the 2011 and 2012 titles, left the squad.

With that said, the Beermen, who won the 2015 and 2016 editions with the latter through a historic comeback from 0-3 down, could be four wins away from becoming the first club to take the Perpetual Trophy under the same coach.

But asked if there is pressure that he is on the verge to make another history, Austria answered, "We're not pressured, dahil what we're thinking is one game at a time. Kung mananalo kami dito, it's only a bonus for us."

Ginebra, meanwhile, is gunning for back-to-back titles overall after clinching last year's Governors' Cup title.

"Defense wins championships"

This finals series could further prove the conjecture that defense can give you rings.

As per a copy of the stats obtained by Dugout Philippines, Ginebra is number one in points conceded at 81.9 a night, while San Miguel is third at 90.3.

To further back this up, in their first meeting on Jan. 8, the Beermen subdued the Barangay, 72-70.

However, if not for that measly score, SMB, which is number one in offense at 97.5 points a game, would have been averaging higher (the team is at 98.9 ppg minus the 72-point output).

Still, this can show that the Beermen, despite being dominant offensively, can still hack out a low-scoring win.

For the Barangay, who are last in offense at 86.3 ppg, they may need to really shut down the Beermen's offensive flow to take the win.

In conclusion...

One thing's for sure. A team from the SMC umbrella will win it all. But San Miguel Sports director Alfrancis Chua, who acts as Ginebra's governor, has only this to say: "May the best team win."

Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of Dugout Philippines.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno