by Jonas Terrado
The Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok will use the Lenten break not only to recharge their batteries but also find ways to set the tempo after having to play catch up in the first the first two games of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals duel with the four-peat seeking San Miguel Beermen.
Magnolia erased a 20-point third quarter deficit to steal the series opener, 105-103, Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and nearly completing another huge rally two nights at the Mall of Asia Arena two nights later before falling, 92-77, that tied the series at 1-1.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven affair is set Easter Sunday at the Big Dome.
“Dapat next game hindi ganito,” Hotshots point guard Mark Barroca said after Sunday’s Game 2. “Kasi pag ganito lagi, ang hirap, lagi kaming naghahabol sa huli. Meron pa kaming ilang days para mag-prepare ng maayos. Makapag-rest muna.”
Rest is something the Hotshots have been direly needing since the semifinals, having to beat the NLEX Road Warriors in six games in almost two weeks before being given only three days to prepare for the finals matchup with the Beermen.
San Miguel underwent almost a week-long respite after defeating crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in five games.
Maganda ring break yun sa kanila,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero. “At least yung mga players kahit papaano makapahinga and then lumabas ulit yung laro nila.”
There are many concerns the Hotshots look to address during the break. Among them are early foul trouble sustained by Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon in Game 2 and Paul Lee’s combined 7-of-26 (27%) clip in the series.
Ian Sangalang remains as one of Magnolia’s source of strength, averaging 20.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in the finals. But the southpaw center cooled off after starting Game 2 with six points in the first period.