by Tito S. Talao
Manila, Philippines – Which Barangay Ginebra San Miguel will San Mig Super Coffee be facing in Game 4 tonight: the team that came together as one and pulverized the Mixers in Game 2, or the royalties with bursting egos who howled and preened in Games 1 and 3, believing they are Kings of the world?
Regardless, the Mixers will be out to put away whoever walks into the Smart Araneta Coliseum floor at 8 p.m. for what could turn out to be a pivotal stage in the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
The Mixers realize the value of what they hold in their hands.
At 2-1, San Mig could follow Rain or Shine from the other bracket in coming within reach of a championship appearance and is not about to waste another advantage the way it did in Game 2.
San Mig took the opener, 85-83, on a closing-game jumper by Mark Barroca and appeared sated that the Kings’ Twin Towers had fallen. The Mixers paid the price in Game 2, getting trampled, 93-64, and sent back to the drawing board.
The result was a methodical per possession battle and a 97-89 conquest of the Kings in Game 3 where 6-foot-10 Japeth Aguilar got grounded and San Mig guards Barroca and PJ Simon soared.
Now the Mixers await a few more hours to find out whether the Kings have found the answers to the various afflictions that ail them.
If they did, then San Mig is scheduled to meet another wrathful opponent. If the impatient Kings continue to grope for chemistry and teamwork – when they have none – then this could be a walk in the park.
Tim Cone, the Mixers coach, could find a little more comfort if they go up by two games in the best-of-7.
“It’s gonna be a tough series. We’re still not comfortable being 2-1. We need to be A-plus to beat this team.”
Cone could be talking about Ginebra as well. So far, the Kings have had no answer to Barroca’s ferocity in pushing the ball upcourt and to his one-handed jumpers. Neither do they have any solution to Simon’s incursions, Joe Devance’s shooting and Marc Pingris’ strength under the boards.
Greg Slaughter had a monster game last Sunday with 29 points and 13 rebounds. But his frontline partner Aguilar, ignoring open teammates in going headlong in his desire to score, sputtered on 3 of 11 shooting although he did have 14 rebounds.
The Kings provided proof of their being self-centered by going without a single assist in the first 12 minutes, with only Slaughter’s wrecking havoc inside keeping San Mig from blowing the game open.
Ginebra coach Ato Agustin knows what’s at stake.
“Kailangang doblehin namin ang energy at intensity,” he said. “We really need to do that kasi napakahirap maghabol sa 1-3. Kaya lahat kami, mula sa players hanggang coaching staff, kailangang maging alert, talagang focused.”