By JONAS TERRADO
Game 1 — TNT 88, Magnolia 70
Game 2 — TNT 105, Magnolia 93
Game 3 — Magnolia 106, TNT 98
(TNT leads series 2-1)
The simmering tension is expected to be a factor in what type of play will translate tonight as TNT and Magnolia Pambansang Manok return to action for Game 4 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
TNT shoots for a commanding 3-1 lead in the scheduled 6 p.m. match against Magnolia, which aims to even the best-of-seven series after an emotionally-filled 106-98 victory last Sunday, Oct. 24.
Much of the discussion during the lull has centered on incidents that have raised the temperature of the championship series.
Troy Rosario is doubtful to play for TNT for the rest of the finals after a dislocated finger and a spinal shock caused by a bad fall courtesy of a Jackson Corpuz bump in Game 3. Corpuz was fined P20,000 but escaped suspension after his Flagrant 1 infraction was upgraded to a Flagrant 2.
The Rosario injury is not the reason why the Tropang Giga are fuming.
Team owner Manny V. Pangilinan lashed out at the officiating, calling it the worst he’s ever seen. The PBA did some steps, removing one of its referees from the finals roster after whistling a foul on Brian Heruela when replays showed that he didn’t even touch Paul Lee.
Center Poy Erram also took his frustrations out by claiming that a Magnolia player spit at him during Game 3, though no clear evidence has been found despite whispers that the incident did happen.
The emotions from Game 3 may have served as a rallying cry for the Tropang Giga, who will look to regain the form they produced in winning the first two matches of the title series.
Eyes will be on rookie Mikey Williams, who despite the loss the last time continued his great finals showing with 39 points on 10 triples.
But that may not matter if Magnolia delivers another strong performance from its main players, particularly Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, Mark Barroca, Calvin Abueva and Jio Jalalon.
Rome dela Rosa will again be tasked to help out on defending Williams while center Rafi Reavis is out to be another solid presence in the paint.
Rosario’s absence leaves TNT without its most versatile big man, which will force coach Chot Reyes to maximize his use of his other frontcourt players like Erram, Kelly Williams and Dave Marcelo.
Jayson Castro, Heruela, Ryan Reyes and even Kib Montalbo look to provide Mikey Williams help in the backcourt, much like they did for most of the eliminations and the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the league will name the winner of the Davco-Best Player of the Conference award before tipoff.
Abueva, Sangalang and Mikey Williams are in the running for the award following their impressive performances in this conference.