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PBA: San Miguel shoots for 2-1 lead vs Star

Game Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Star
(Series tied 1-1)

A battle of attrition looms tonight between the San Miguel Beermen and Star Hotshots as they seek a 2-1 lead and a step closer from making to the finals in their best-of-five semifinal series in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

San Miguel leveled the series with a hard-fought 77-76 victory in Game 2 Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena, but coach Leo Austria believes his team has yet to play its best against the tough Star squad that is eyeing a redemption after coming close to taking a commanding 2-0 lead.

Austria is hoping that the ‘best’ will come in tonight’s 7 p.m. match.

“I hope na next game, mailabas namin yung arsenal namin dahil this is not really our game yet,” said Austria. “During the eliminations, everybody is enjoying the game and we’re averaging 109 points per game. But (in Game 2), we only scored 77, maybe because of the deliberate basketball or defense of the other team.

“Maybe because of awareness, alam ng mga players ko na we have to be methodical or deliberate,” added Austria, who is eyeing a second straight trip to the finals and fifth since he was tapped to coach the Beermen in 2015.

Defense still leaves plenty to be desired after the Beermen lost a 16-point third quarter lead that led to the thrilling finish. They were able to make the stop in the end when Paul Lee missed a running shot in the dying seconds.

Lee’s miss completed a nightmarish evening for the Hotshots guard. He made just one shot – a three-pointer – in eight attempts. Still, losing coach Chito Victolero offered no regrets in giving Lee the ball.

“Kung pumasok naman yun, ano tayo dito, 2-0. Di lang pumasok,” he said. “Again and again, if I have a chance to give it to Paul again, I’ll give it. I think depende lang sa sitwasyon kung kanino ibibigay.”

The Hotshots, though, seem to dictate the tempo of the series, especially with import Ricardo Ratliffe still imposing his presence in the shaded area. Ratliffe had 25 points and 35 rebounds, the fourth-highest single-game mark in league history.

Even San Miguel counterpart Charles Rhodes and June Mar Fajardo have yet to figure out ways to containing Ratliffe.

But the Hotshots will be much deadlier should their offense get in sync along with their defense. Aside from Lee’s offensive struggle, Allein Maliksi, who had 26 points in Game 1, scored just seven on a 2-of-7 clip.

For the Beermen, they’ll bank on their locals to be consistent. Marcio Lassiter scored all of his 11 points in the first half, going scoreless the rest of the way.

San Miguel’s all-around guard Chris Ross has been dealing with frustration over referee calls and physical play while trying to provide everything he could.