Game Friday
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7:30 p.m. — San Miguel vs Meralco
*Series tied, 2-2

Game 1: Meralco def. SMB, 93-86
Game 2: SMB def. Meralco, 95-94
Game 3: Meralco def. SMB, 93-89
Game 4: SMB def. Meralco, 111-101

DEFENDING champion San Miguel Beer (SMB) and challenger Meralco declared readiness to go the extra mile as they continue rumbling for the coveted PBA Philippine Cup crown.

It’s been a slugfest of a best-of-seven series with the Bolts grabbing the lead twice with victories in Games 1 and 3, 93-86 and 93-89, and the Beermen countering each time, 95-94 in Game 2 and 111-101 in Game 4, to pull even.

If Meralco would have its way, this alternating trend should continue in tonight’s fifth game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to position itself to within a win away from its franchise milestone.

But SMB would rather alter the direction the entanglement had been taking so far, seize the first back-to-back win in the 7:30 p.m. tiff and get on the hill.

“It’s a (virtual) best-of-three. It’s going to come down to who’s playing better basketball at the right time,” said Meralco heart and soul Chris Newsome, whose career-high 40 points went to waste as his squad failed to collar a commanding 3-1 upperhand on Independence Day.

“It’s a tough loss for us but that’s why we got the win last game (3) so we could have that (2-1) advantage. Now, it’s back to square one and it’s our turn to punch back. We got a day of rest and then we’re back at it on Friday. It’s going to be a grind-out for the rest of the series. We’re going to have the energy, we’re going to refocus, stay and get back to playing Meralco basketball.”

SMB counterpart Jorge Gallent said if his troops would continue what they started in the Game 4 equalizer, where they finally breached the 100-point mark and limited Meralco’s shot volume, they should be fine.

“We talked about trusting one another and sharing the ball. If we do that, our offense will come,” said Mr. Gallent, who got major contributions from series debutants Vic Manuel and Terrence Romeo as 10-time Best Player of the Conference June Mar Fajardo and gunners CJ Perez and Marcio Lasitter produced their usual numbers in making it 2-2.

“And it showed in Game 4. We had 111 (points), this is the highest output in this series. So it’s just the mindset of these players to trust one another and to share the ball. That’s the philosophy.”

Mr. Gallent also took note how SMB’s improved efforts in rebounding and defending prevented Meralco from gaining 16 extra shots like before.

“They were dictating the previous games because they were averaging 16 more shots than us. It was really hard to win if your opponent had that advantage,” he said after the Beermen outdid the Bolts in field goal attempts, 76 to 75.

“The players really focused on that and made an effort getting the rebounds kasi lahat ng extra points ng Meralco came from offensive boards.”

Bolts counterpart Luigi Trillo also feels SMB’s ramped-up energy level was a key factor last time.

“They played with a lot of energy and intensity,” he said. “We have to be better, and I think we can be better. We just can’t make it easy (for SMB). I thought San Miguel was able to take it easy because of their energy.” — Olmin Leyba