by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Magnolia
(Magnolia leads series 1-0)
Magnolia looks to apply more pressure on four-time defending champion San Miguel Beer and gain a 2-0 lead in Game 2 of their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup Finals today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots, who drew first blood Wednesday with a 99-94 victory, are hoping that history won’t repeat itself as they try to make it two in a row over the Beermen in the contest set at 7 p.m.
During last season’s Philippine Cup Finals, Magnolia took the opener after staging a furious rally in the fourth quarter only to see San Miguel respond with four straight victories to retain its status as the league’s best All-Filipino squad.
But coach Chito Victolero believes that the Hotshots, who went on to win the Governors’ Cup later on, are more equipped to avoid a similar scenario though stressing to need to do a better job on the defensive end.
“We still have a long way to go and we have to play better defending the perimeter and the post,” Victolero said.
Backcourt play proved to be one of the difference makers in Game 1 as Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon, Mark Barroca and Justin Melton combined for 62 points while holding counterparts Chris Ross, Terrence Romeo and Marcio Lassiter to a combined 4-of-30 from the field.
The four were responsible in giving Magnolia a 78-68 lead in the third before the rest of the team had to weather a late rally led by San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo, who brought the Beermen to within a point 95-94 with 1:29 left in the fourth.
A key jumper by Ian Sangalang plus missed threes from Arwind Santos, Ross and Lassiter enabled Magnolia to weather the late San Miguel fightback.
“That is something that we have to adjust,” said Beermen coach Leo Austria. “Because of the poor execution of our pattern, (Magnolia was) able to get a lot of transition offense.”
Fajardo had 35 points and 21 rebounds in Game 1 but San Miguel’s overreliance on the 6-foot-10 center was evident with the struggles of the rest of the Beermen.
But guys like Lassiter, who spent the semifinal series against Phoenix Pulse dealing with a back problem, are eager to atone for their struggles and produce a split of the first two games.