Game Wednesday
Smart Araneta Coliseum
7:30 p.m. — San Miguel Beer vs Magnolia
* SMB leads series, 2-0

AT THE rate it’s going, well-oiled San Miguel Beer (SMB) looks pretty unstoppable in its duel for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup crown with Magnolia.

Playing every inch the “Death 15” they’re touted to be, the Beermen have thrown their weight around the best team of the eliminations, 103-95 in Game 1 and 109-85, to go 2-0 in what many expected as a neck and neck.

Some observers are even starting to think of “sweep” due to the one-sided situation of this race-to-four clash. But don’t tell that “S” word to SMB coach Jorge Gallent, whose crew’s day-by-day approach has served them well not only in the finals but in nine other previous games dating back to the eliminations.

“2-0 is nothing,” Mr. Gallent said ahead of Wednesday’s Game 3 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, which is expected to get more highly-charged in the wake of the heated incidents both on-court and off-court in the last match.

“We just achieved a 2-0 lead as of now. We haven’t achieved our target (the championship). We have two more games to focus on. The sweep is not even in our minds. Our thinking is how to get our third win and then our fourth before them.”

If there’s one team that sees light at the end of the tunnel amid a 0-2 predicament, it’s got to be Magnolia.

In their franchise history, the Hotshots (or previously Purefoods TJ Hotdogs) managed to come back from such a deficit and complete a 4-3 steal three times before — 2019 Philippine Cup semis over Rain or Shine, 2006 Philippine Cup semis over Alaska and 2002 Governors Cup finals over the Aces.

“We’re not giving up,” said a defiant Magnolia mentor Chito Victolero. “This is not the time to quit because we prepared and dreamt of this eight months ago. The only thing we need to do is rise and prepare for Wednesday.”

Mr. Victolero’s squad needs to return to being an efficient defensive machine if it were to stop SMB’s offensive juggernaut.

Led by Bennie Boatwright (31 points per game), CJ Perez (19.5, June Mar Fajardo (15) and Marcio Lassiter (13.5), the Beermen averaged 106 markers in the series, way above what Magnolia usually allowed in the conference.

At the same time, the usual suspects for the Hotshots like Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon and the controversial Calvin Abueva should crank it up to complement Tyler Bey and Mark Barroca, who have been their best performers so far with 24 and 13.5 scoring averages, respectively.

SMB and Magnolia go at it three nights after an eventful entanglement marred by a verbal spat between Messrs. Gallent and Abueva in the fourth and Mr. Abueva, Mo Tautuaa and their respective wives post-game.

The pro league has launched an investigation on the incidents and is expected to hand out sanctions after hearing the sides of those involved. — Olmin Leyba