Game Today (Smart Araneta)
7 p.m. – San Miguel Beer vs Alaska
Even after producing two come-from-behind victories against San Miguel Beer, Alaska coach Alex Compton brushed off the notion that they are on the verge of scoring one of the biggest upset wins in the finals history of the PBA Philippine Cup.
Compton, of course, was just being humble.
But inspired by their comeback win in Game 3, the Aces hope to ride the momentum today as they go for a 3-1 series lead against the Beermen in Game 4 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
For Alaska, the opportunity of putting a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series is something they don’t want to waste.
Alaska regained the series lead last Sunday the hard way as the Aces erased a 21-point third quarter deficit to eke out a 78-70 victory.
That comeback seemed to be more impressive than the Aces’ 88-82 overtime win in Game 1 that saw them rallying from 22 points down in the first half.
Although their confidence is ultra high, Compton understands that the Beermen have the capability of bouncing back and tie the series at 2-2.
SMB overcame a bitter Game 1 loss when it took a highly-physical Game 2, 100-86, last Friday.
“It’s just 2-1… it doesn’t mean anything,” said Compton.
“We all know that to win the series, a team needs to win four (games). We won a pair of games and we need two more. If we can win this one (Game 4), that’ll put us in a good position,” added Compton.
San Miguel is expected to try everything in its power to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole in the finals. Only three teams out of 45 have managed to get out of that hole in a best-of-seven affair.
Those teams are Ginebra San Miguel against Shell in the 1991 First Conference Finals, Purefoods opposite Alaska in the 2006 Philippine Cup semifinals and Talk ‘N Text over Petron in the 2012 Philippine Cup semis.
Even San Miguel coach Leo Austria is optimistic of his team’s chances.
“This is a long series and we’re capable of winning. The fact that we led by 20-plus points twice in this series, we know that the potential is there. But it’s up to us,” said Austria, who is in his first conference as SMB coach.
Austria will likewise rely on 6-foot-10 center June Mar Fajardo, the reigning MVP who looks forward to improving his point-production as his numbers dipped from at least 19 points per game in the elimination and semifinals, to 14 points per game in this series.
Also, expected to step up for SMB are former MVP Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Lutz, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Ronald Tubid, and rookies Ronald Pascual and David Semerad.
Alaska star Calvin Abueva is expected to be a marked man for the nth time after dominating San Miguel for 16 points and 15 rebounds in Game 3.
Aside from Abueva, Compton will also lean on his mainstays JVee Casio, Sonny Thoss, Dondon Hontiveros, Cyrus Baguio, Tony dela Cruz, RJ Jazul, Eric Menk, Vic Manuel, and rookie Chris Banchero.