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PBA: Beermen shoot for Finals tonight

Rain Or Shine's Wendell McKines is fouled by  San Miguel Beer's Gabby Espinas as he drives to the basket during the third game of their best-of-five series, July 6, 2015 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Photo by Ernie U. Sarmiento

A comeback no less heavenly than the one they summoned in Game 2 begs for an encore as the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters fight for survival against San Miguel Beer tonight in Game 4 of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Gametime is at 7 p.m., with the Beermen, ahead 2-1, seeking to end the bizarre best-of-5 series and arrange a titular showdown with the revenge-fueled Alaska Aces, and the Elasto Painters looking to muster another spirited rally that will extend the semis to a deciding Game 5.

Rain or Shine buried SMB under tons of baskets in Game 1 last Thursday, only to watch the Beermen rise from the ashes and charge back from 24 points down to win, 101-95. The E-Painters then beheld divine intervention in Game 2 after a resurgence short of a resurrection, withstanding torrid 3-point shooting from Marcio Lassiter (10 of 13 triples) and a 20-point deficit in leveling the series, 113-110, on a Jeff Chan 3-pointer.

So moved was ROS coach Yeng Guiao that he waxed biblical after the rousing win.

“Only God can script a game like this,” Guiao gushed. “I’ve been coaching a long time in this league and this is probably one of the most amazing comebacks which I’ve ever coached. We worked so hard, we played our hearts out, but only God can write a story this way. Ibinigay ito ng Diyos sa amin, ang ginawa namin nagtrabaho lang kami, nagdasal.”

SMB, however, regrouped in a hurry after the heartbreaking loss to take Game Three, 114-108, Monday as Arizona Reid, run aground by bull-strong Wendell McKines (53 points) in Game 2, fired 7 triples on the way to 37 points. McKines, with 39, still had more, but Alex Cabagnot added 26 points and Lassiter, the hot hand Saturday, had 17, along with big fella Junemar Fajardo, to provide the difference.

Game 5, if necessary, is on Friday, the same date Game 1 of the best-of-7 finals is scheduled should San Miguel succeed in wrapping up the series tonight.

SMB coach Leo Austria said their monumental Game 2 collapse is behind them although he did leave a footnote on the matter.

“That was very frustrating. We led by 20 points but lost in a last shot. But that happens in a game. I told them (players) to set that aside, it’s a thing of the past,” Austria said. “But we were in one direction today. I think the reason why we won was we were able to adjust on what they did to us the last time. Our zone defense worked. This game is very pivotal.”

McKines, who Rain or Shine picked over former import Reid to reinforce them this conference, went berserk with 23 shots in Game 2 but was held down to 14 attempts in Game 3 behind SMB’s zone and deliberate double-teaming at the post.

Gabe Norwood, the ROS forward, believed their failure to get McKines the ball the way they did in Game 2 was largely to blame for the loss though.

“I feel bad for Wendell,” Norwood told Spin.ph. “He got off to a good start. But we kind of took the ball out of his hands ourselves. That’s on us. We settled for threes. Actually that’s what they want us to take, but at the same time, we don’t have to take what they’re giving us. We can force the issue and make plays. That’s on us to be smarter and realize that this guy is shooting eighty percent from the field and we’ll take our chances with him.”

Burly Beau Belga, who twisted an ankle in Game 1 and sat out the next two games for ROS, remains doubtful while forward Jervy Cruz is confirmed gone for the series after an accident at home resulted in a foot injury.

A victory by San Miguel will set up a championship rematch with Alaska, which the Beermen beat in Game 7 of the Philippine Cup finals, 79-78, last January on Arwind Santos’ late-game 3-point shot.