By JONAS TERRADO
San Miguel Beer’s Chris Ross, front, comes between Magnolia’s Jio Jalalon and the ball during Game 2 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals last Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena. SMB won 92-77 to level at 1-1 the best-of-7 series. (MB photo | Rio Deluvio)Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
6:30 p.m. – San Miguel vs Magnolia
(Series tied 1-1)
Defending champion San Miguel and Magnolia resume their PBA Philippine Cup Finals duel after a long respite tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the physicality expected to continue as evidenced in the first two games of the best-of-seven series.
Both teams expect to enter the 6:30 p.m. contest rejuvenated and determined to gain a 2-1 lead while also bracing for more rugged play as witnessed in the latter stages of San Miguel’s 92-77 triumph the previous Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Beermen, who blew a 20-point lead in a 105-103 loss in Game 1, are looking to use whatever momentum gained before the break to their advantage and move halfway to completing a fourth consecutive title in the season’s opening tournament.
“Napi-feel ko na mas itotodo namin ang Game 3,” said SMB forward Arwind Santos, who fired 24 points spiked by six triples in Game 2.
Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot and reserves Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Brian Heruela will once again be tapped to deliver, with Magnolia likely to continue giving June Mar Fajardo fits inside the shaded lane.
Fajardo was held to 12 points in Game 2, but Magnolia rued its failure to contain San Miguel’s perimeter shooting.
“The good thing with us, we have June Mar Fajardo. But there’s so many ways how to stop June Mar, which they are doing right now; we just need to keep on adjusting,” said Beermen coach Leo Austria.
Magnolia, on the other hand, would like to see a tight game right from the onset, unlike in the previous two games that saw the Hotshots play catch-up.
The Hotshots are also looking to avoid getting into foul trouble, as what transpired in Game 2 with Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon hobbled by early infractions.
Despite these concerns, Hotshots coach Chito Victolero is not about to make any significant changes with the defensive mindset that allowed the team to make the finals after unsuccessful tries in all three conferences last season.
“We’ll try kung anuman yung ginagawa namin from the start ng conference, yun pa rin yung gagawin namin,” said Victolero.
Sangalang, Barroca, Jalalon and Paul Lee, who has shot a dismal 26-percent clip in the finals, lead the charge for the Hotshots, with Kyle Pascual, newly married Rodney Brondial and Rafi Reavis tasked to man the middle and make Fajardo work for his shots.
Justin Melton, meanwhile, has been ruled out for the rest of the series after reinjuring his hamstring in Game 1.