The first time Barangay Ginebra and NLEX met in the conference, a big part of it was Mark Caguioa chasing and eventually hitting the 10,000-point milestone.
"The real hard work starts. We know there's no easy way in the playoffs. It's all hard work and it's always a tough route no matter who you're playing," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
Now, the entire Ginebra team steps up its PBA Governors Cup three-peat drive as the Gin Kings clash with the Road Warriors in a quarterfinals matchup between the top seed and eighth seed at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Tuesday.
The Kings are certainly the heavy favorites with their formidable star-studded roster ranged against the NLEX side with hardly a star but mostly players essentially fighting with grit and guts.
Experience is also surely on Ginebra's side.
But the Kings are not about to count the Road Warriors out.
The twice grand slam-winning coach said NLEX is a tough playoff rival with coach Yeng Guiao at its helm.
"I think we all coaches we try to avoid certain coaches we wanna play in the playoffs. And certainly, Yeng Guiao is one of those coaches you wanna avoid in the playoffs," said Cone. "You know you would be in a tough battle with coach Yeng."
Giving Cone a comforting thought is his team being back in full force on the return of Greg Slaughter and Sol Mercado, and finally the addition of Art dela Cruz.
All three had a good warmup in Ginebra's 112-93 demolition of TNT KaTropa in the final game of the elims Sunday at the Big Dome.
"It's important for us to get more minutes and more time and play hard with Greg in the lineup and also Sol, and also we started with Art in the lineup.
Primarily because we wanted them extra minutes, have them time as they didn't have much time this conference," said Cone.
"I felt they needed that game and I felt we needed that game with them," Cone added.
With the three, the Kings fashioned out a game that spoke well of what they can bring in the playoffs and in pursuit of a third straight crown in the season-ending tourney.
For the Road Warriors, it's all about giving everything they have got, and leaving everything the can on the floor.
At posting time, there was no report yet on whether NLEX is sticking it out with Aaron Fuller or bringing back Ola Ashaolu.
"We don't know much about NLEX now as we played them early in the conference. We have to refresh our memory about them," said Cone.
"But I mean they've got a lot of weapons. Fuller has been awesome this whole conference. Maybe, they would go with different import. I don't know. But we're gonna worry more on how we prepare ourselves and get ourselves ready," Cone added.
The Kings clobbered the Road Warriors, 106-92, in their elims tussle on Oct. 5 marked by Caguioa becoming the 16th member of the league's elite 10,000-point club.(SB)