By Jonas Terrado
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Magnolia
The defending champion San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok start their PBA Philippine Cup Finals tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with the theme centering on whether the best offense or the best defense would prevail in the best-of-seven series.
Tipoff is set at 7 p.m. with the four-peat seeking Beermen and the Hotshots looking to draw first blood and set the tempo in the series featuring teams boasting talented lineups and contrasting philosophies.
“When it comes to scoring kami ang No. 1 e, but when it comes to defense I think sila din yung No. 1 e kaya we will be having a good match,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria, whose team carries to label of favorites owing to its collection of championships since 2015.
Numbers do support the two teams’ reputation, with San Miguel averaging 98.7 points per game and Magnolia limiting opponents to a league-low 85.2 a contest.
The Beermen go into the finals with a star-studded five of reigning four-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos, along with a slightly-improved bench led by the energetic Matt Ganuelas-Rosser.
But Magnolia, finally in the finals after semifinal exits in all three conferences last season, also has a capability to match up with San Miguel with a gritty roster powered by Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, Mark Barroca, Rome dela Rosa and Jio Jalalon.
Hotshots mentor Chito Victolero, in his first finals as a coach, can only hope for a high-rated showing from his team in order to keep pace with San Miguel.
“Kahit sinong team hindi makakatapat sa starters ni coach Leo,” said Victolero. “So we’ll just try to prepare our scheme defensively and on offense para makasabay kami sa laro ng SMB. But we need to be on the same page palagi. In order to beat SMB, we need to have an A-game from all of my players.”
The hunger factor is on the side of Magnolia after making the finals for the first time since the 2014 grand slam season and missing team captain Marc Pingris to a season-ending ACL injury suffered in the semifinal series with NLEX.
The duel between Fajardo against Sangalang, who has slowly become one of the league’s best pivot man, will be among the anticipated individual matchups in the series, while Lassiter could be one of Magnolia’s main focus on defense.
Lassiter emerged as the star of San Miguel’s semis win over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, averaging 20.8 points in that series on 43 percent shooting, with 21 of his 36 made field goals coming from the three-point line.
San Miguel is also banking on Cabagnot to sustain his late heroics from the Ginebra series, with his offensive contributions needed down the stretch.
On the other hand, Lee will be the top offensive weapon for Magnolia as he looks to perform well in his first finals since winning the Finals MVP plum in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup for champion team Rain or Shine.
Leave a Reply