By JONAS TERRADO
(Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Ginebra
(San Miguel leads series 2-0)
Defending champion San Miguel will need more than what coach Leo Austria labeled as luck that led to Sunday’s stunning comeback as it shoots for a commanding 3-0 lead over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in tonight’s Game 3 of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Match is set at 7 p.m. with the Beermen determined to follow up a stirring 106-104 overtime win in Game 2 on Marcio Lassiter’s tip-in.
The Beermen are bidding to advance to the finals of the season-opening conference for a fourth straight time.
Austria was quick to thank his lucky stars after San Miguel overcame a 15-point deficit and defeat looming when Ginebra took a 102-98 lead in the final minute of the extra session.
“I think yung panalo namin was tsamba,” Austria said, though timely recoveries by Lassiter and Arwind Santos from quiet starts and June Mar Fajardo’s consistency also contributed to the rally.
Austria, however, is wary of the success Ginebra had in its near win, particularly coach Tim Cone’s trust in reserve center Prince Caperal.
Caperal, who the Kings signed earlier this conference after Kia placed him on unrestricted free agent list, had the game of his life with a career-high 26 points and eight rebounds in a starting role as Cone was looking for other means to fill up the absence of star center Greg Slaughter.
Slaughter missed his fourth straight game due to an ankle injury and remains questionable for tonight’s match.
“There’s a big adjustment in their game, especially using players na seldom-used. I respect that player which is Caperal and I think a new star is born,” said Austria, who cited Ginebra’s gambit as a reason for giving his starters – Lassiter, Santos, Fajardo, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot – the usual big minutes.
Down but not out, Ginebra will now try to replicate a similar comeback in the Philippine Cup semifinals against the Star Hotshots (now-Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok) last season.
Ginebra lost the first two games of that series, came back to win two in a row before erasing a 3-2 deficit to advance to the finals where it eventually lost to the same San Miguel squad.
Main weapons LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and Joe Devance seek to play better than usual and begin the process of another series comeback.