THE ongoing best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup finals series between defending champions San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok hits the critical juncture Game Five today with the two teams eyeing a victory that will take them one step away from the championship.

Set for 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the finals of the Philippine Basketball Association All-Filipino conference was reduced to a best-of-three affair after the Beermen pulled even in the series by winning Game Four, 114-98, on Wednesday.

San Miguel used a strong effort in the middle quarters in said game to create cushion and build momentum to hold off the Hotshots the rest of the way.

June Mar Fajardo, who took home his sixth best player of the conference in the Philippine Cup last time around, led San Miguel in the win with 31 points and 14 rebounds.

Terrence Romeo followed him with 18 points with Chris Ross finishing with 15.

Christian Standhardinger had 13 points and 14 boards while Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot had 12 and 11 points, respectively.

For Magnolia it was Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon who showed the way with 22 points apiece. Ian Sangalang had 19 points.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria after Game Four lauded his team’s concerted effort to tie the series and get back to the mix.

“The team showed the energy, focus and pride in this game which helped us a lot. It was a total team effort. We hope to continue that in the next game,” said Mr. Austria.

For Magnolia counterpart Chito Victolero, he highlighted the need for them to dictate the pace of the contest to give themselves a better chance against a loaded squad like San Miguel.

“We cannot keep in step with them on offense so we have to do our job on the defensive end,” said Mr. Victolero, who pinpointed Mr. Fajardo as one of the players they have to do a good job on containing. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo