San Miguel Beer and Magnolia Pambansang Manok, the title protagonists last season, face off in their keenly awaited rematch in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday.
The Hotshots, however, got off to a losing season debut, dropping an overtime grind versus the KaTropa.
Game time is at 6:45 p.m. in a duel of champs pitting the reigning all-Filipino titlists and the losing Philippine Cup finalists last season that later on ruled the Governors Cup.
Thus it is expected to be a slam-bang showdown especially with both teams looking to build momentum before the league takes a break to give way to the final window of the FIBA World Cup qualifier.
The Beermen have just checked a two-game slump with a 93-79 win over the Blackwater Elite while the Hotshots hope to get into the win-column after dropping their season debut against the TNT KaTropa, 75-80.
June Mar Fajardo and his teammates took only five games to dispose of the Hotshots in their best-of-seven all-Filipino title series last year, but Magnolia had its revenge in their Governors Cup elims matchup before going on to make a successful run in the post-elims play.
San Miguel, meanwhile, has been on a roller-coaster ride so far in the tourney.
SMB coach Leo Austria was thankful they won their last game before their showdown with the Hotshots.
"Good win for us going to our big game against Magnolia. Only two teams get a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals. Mathematically, we still have the chance, but we'll first focus our attention on Magnolia," said Austria.
The SMB bench chieftain is hopeful they can sustain the effort and brilliance they showed against the Elite.
"There's a lot of effort from our players. At kahit na decided na yung game, nandoon yung effort, at yun naman ang gusto namin," said Austria.
"We all know that we have all the talents. Pero useless ang talent kung walang effort na ipapakita," he added.
The Hotshots faltered in OT against the KaTropa with ace guard Paul Lee already out because of an ankle sprained suffered early on.
Lee could be game-time decision for coach Chito Victolero against the Beermen.
The SMB-Magnolia tiff is to feature exciting matchups in the backcourt with Lee, Jio Jalalon, Mark Barroca and PJ Simon on their side and Terrence Romeo, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot on the other side.
With his desire to help his team, Cabagnot defied his doctor's advice, suiting up and returning into action Wednesday night against Blackwater. And he was helpful as he scored 19 points, including 3-of-5 three-pointers.(SB)