Burning Questions for the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup Semi-Finals
The 2022 PBA Philippine Cup semi-finals are set, with top seed San Miguel Beermen facing fifth seed Meralco Bolts, and second seed TNT Tropang Giga meeting third seed Magnolia Hotshots in a pair of series from the seven that begin on Wednesday.
Both series are interesting but different, and with that in mind, let’s address the burning question for each.
How will Magnolia contain TNT’s Mikey Williams?
This match-up is a replay of the 2021 final of the same conference, which the Tropang Giga won in five games for their first Philippine Cup title in nine years. In their only knockout encounter, which actually opened the 2022 PBA season on June 5, TNT emerged victorious 78-72.
TNT star Mikey Williams has made the Philippine Cup his personal showcase, averaging a league-high 22.3 points per game. He actually didn’t play in the June 5 game, so the Hotshots will face him for the first time this season.
Going through the 2021 Philippine Cup final, Magnolia is about to encounter a recurring nightmare.
In those five games in the Pampanga bubble, Williams torched them for 27.6 ppg on a 51.6% field goal percentage, including a ridiculous 54.6% from one field. three points and a 68.5% true shooting percentage. He added 5.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists for good measure.
After eliminating the NLEX Road Warriors on Sunday, Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said he wasn’t afraid to put Jio Jalalon on Williams. It’s unclear how often this game will happen, as Williams likes to play with the ball and Jalalon is usually tasked with picking up the opposing team’s playmaker.
But in Jalalon, Mark Barroca and Paul Lee, the Hotshots have perhaps the best defensive guard rotation in the league which is largely responsible for a record 9.5 interceptions per game.
The Hotshots pride themselves on their team defense, which holds opponents to another league record with 82 points per game. That defense will be tested against a TNT offense that produces 94.8 points per game on RealGM’s .515 true shooting percentage — the third-highest two in this conference.
Also, the second top scorer in the Philippine Cup is Tropang Giga guard RR Pogoy (18.8 ppg), so TNT literally has a tremendous 1-2 offensive punch. Add veteran Jayson Castro, who is scoring 11.8 points per game on 37% three-point shooting, into the mix, and that makes for a deadly rotation of three guards on offense.
In the battle of the boards, TNT – led by Troy Rosario, Poy Erram and a rejuvenated Kelly Williams – and Magnolia – featuring Ian Sangalang, Calvin Abueva and Jackson Corpuz – virtually cancel each other out, with the Tropang Giga averaging 46.5 rebounds per game against 46.1 for the Hotshots.
Victolero said Lee was still under a minute restriction as they continued to be wary of his restless back. “We limit it to around 25 minutes,” he said, adding a new angle to this series.
In a long series, the team with the freshest legs will have the advantage. By the time these two teams meet on Wednesday for the series opener, TNT will have played just one game in 24 days. Over the same period, Magnolia will have played six, including two in overtime.
It will be interesting to see how this all pans out and if fatigue actually makes a difference.
Can Meralco take another step against the mighty San Miguel?
Meralco is coming off their first-ever playoff victory against arch-nemesis Barangay Ginebra.
As a reward, the Bolts will have to go through a seven-game series against the top-seeded San Miguel Beermen, who look terrific at every position. It’s a daunting task, but with Ginebra’s curse finally lifted, the Bolts set their sights on a new goal: making their first Philippine Cup final.
“I think the motivation for us is that Meralco has never been in the All-Filipino Finals,” team captain Chris Newsome said. “I think we can use that as motivation is that we have even more history that we can do.
“It’s a step we were able to take against Ginebra, but there’s another goal we didn’t achieve either, which is getting to the All-Filipino final.”
The Bolts can take inspiration from handing the Beermen one of their two playoff losses, an 89-86 decision on July 17.
In that game, June Mar Fajardo had a strong effort of 21 points and 12 rebounds on 9 of 12 shooting. The rest of the Beermen, however, only shot 38%. That 86 points was the second-lowest for SMB this conference, and 17 shy of their league-best 103.5 points per game.
It should be noted that SMB had already clinched the top seed and were missing Mo Tautuaa and Chris Ross in this match. Both are now healthy and back in harness.
Meralco’s interim coach Luigi Trillo is particularly concerned about the Beermen’s scary frontline, which is a big part of why SMB is the No. 1 rebounding team in this conference (48.0 rpg).
“San Miguel’s No. 1. He’s a whole different animal,” Trillo admitted. “They have June Mar Fajardo, they have Tautuaa, they have Vic Manuel.
“Pound for pound, at one point, Tautuaa and Vic were the best post guys in the league when June Mar was injured. They’re going to be a handful. But I trust our guys.
“They’re going to fight well. We’ve got guys everywhere who can participate. It’s going to be different because this time it’s seven games.”
The Beermen guards aren’t bad either.
CJ Perez finally got comfortable in his role, while newcomer Jericho Cruz provided the firepower off the bench. The two are averaging 17.5 and 16.9 points per game, respectively. The Bolts’ Newsome (16.3 ppg) and Aaron Black (15.0 ppg) may be an equally big defensive challenge, but overall the Beermen are just bigger and deeper.
But delist Meralco at your own risk.
“It’s going to be tough, especially with their roster,” Newsome said. “I can not wait to be there.
“But as I said in another interview, if you want to reach the top, you have to beat the best. San Miguel is one of the best, if not the best team in the All-Philippines, so we have to go through them. to go to the final, it’s a great challenge for us.