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PBA: Alaska fights for survival tonight

SAN MIGUEL’s Arwind Santos (left) battles Alaska’s Romeo Travis and Rome De La Rosa for the rebound during Game 2 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The Beermen won, 103-95. (Ernie Sarmiento)

Game Today (Smart Araneta)
7 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel

Is 72 hours enough for the Alaska Aces to delay the inevitable, reverse the course of history and set in motion a comeback of heroic, if not epic, magnitude?

San Miguel Beer hopes not, but some things may be destined to be.

PBA teams in the span of 40 years have been known to return from 0-2 deficits in a best-of-7 series and escape falling into a chasm that is a 0-3 hole, a black pit that swallows hapless ballclubs never to be seen again.

Alaska looks to join those resilient teams before it’s too late.

Halfway along a gangplank where torrid-shooting San Miguel had pushed them almost overboard, the Aces begin a slow moonwalk back to safety when they fight for survival in Game 3 of the Governors’ Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Though far from being lifeless even if they should lose at 7 tonight, the Aces, nevertheless, will be left for dead if they go down 3 games to none, plummeting into an abyss where the bones of all those who fell and never made it back – all of them – litter the bottom.

It’s a hellish place to be, one filled with despondency and despair, and the Aces have but one shot at tiptoeing around it.

No team has ever come back from 0-3 disadvantage to win the championship, and as fearsome as they already are, with Junemar Fajardo manning the post, Arizona Reid driving Alaska to the ground and a slew of sharpshooters picking off targets, the Beermen would rather stand on the side of history than against it.

The Aces likewise wouldn’t want to tempt fate and will go all out to avoid doing so, this much SMB coach Leo Austria expects.

“Their shooters aren’t visible yet,” he said after Game 2, which they snatched, 103-95, behind a 30-point fourth quarter and a 13-0 run to end it Sunday. “We expect them to explode anytime.”

Question is, who might Austria be referring to? Dondon Hontiveros (3 of 9 in 3s)? Jayvee Casio (3 of 9)? RJ Jasul (2 of 8)? Cyrus Baguio (0 of 4)? Romeo Travis (1 of 5)?

Implode instead of explode is apparently what has happened to the Aces’ offense so far, and the fuse has to be lit by one of these fellows if Alaska is to make Austria’s presage come true.

A bigger question is, how will Alaska deal with SMB’s very visible shooters?

Bombarded by 10 three-point shots in Game 1 and 17 in Game 2, the Aces shooters, by comparison 10 of 40 from beyond the arc in two games, have been running for cover instead of returning sniper fire.

That will have to change drastically if the Aces are to celebrate the next 48 hours with renewed hope and purpose.

SMB has come at Alaska from three directions In Games 1 and 2: inside (Fajardo), outside (Marcio Lassiter et al) and everywhere (Reid). How the Aces will neutralize at least one will determine where this series is headed.

The wise money would be on the Aces snuffing out the SMB shooters. A bolder alternative, however, could be to take Reid and point guard Alex Cabagnot out of the equation, cutting off ball movement at the source and at the Beermen’s first option.