By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE BEST-of-seven Philippines Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup finals series hits a critical juncture today with Game Five to be played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Knotted at 2-2 in the ongoing finals of the midseason PBA tournament, the TNT KaTropa and San Miguel Beermen go for the all-important victory in their 7 p.m. joust that would give them the momentum and push them to within a win away from the title.
The series stalemate was forced after San Miguel pulled even with a 106-101 victory in Game Four on Sunday where the Beermen used a strong push late in the third quarter to give themselves a good cushion before holding on tight down the stretch to book the win and get back in the series.
Import Chris McCullough had another 20-20 for the Beermen in the win, finishing with 27 points and 22 rebounds to go along with four assists.
Guard Alex Cabagnot had 25 points while big man June Mar Fajardo tallied 22 markers.
Terrence Jones, meanwhile, was the high point man for TNT with 32 points on top 16 boards, six assists and six steals.
Troy Rosario had 24 points and eight rebounds while Jayson Castro had 17 markers, eight rebounds and eight assists.
While they rued the missed opportunity to bury San Miguel deeper in the series, TNT remains upbeat of its chances in the race, which is now reduced to a best-of-three affair.
The KaTropa though are mindful that they have to live up from their end and play accordingly to achieve their goal of ending a four-year title drought.
“We must try not to fall behind too deep because playing catch-up takes a toll on us during end games. We must stay within the game and give ourselves a chance to win against San Miguel,” said Mr. Castro, in the vernacular, after Game Four.
He went on to say that defense, too, will be key for them.
“Defense is key for us if we are to win the series. If our defense is good, our offense often follows,” said Mr. Castro, whose team was just down by three points, 104-101, in the dying seconds of Game Four and had at a shot at winning the game.
Over at the Beermen’s camp, surviving anew a tough stand from the KaTropa last time around, they deemed themselves lucky but nonetheless expressed readiness to fight it all the way.
“Thank God for this win. It was an important game for us because we did not want to fall behind, 3-1, in the series. So salute to the players for getting this win,” said a relieved San Miguel coach Leo Austria after Game Four.
“In this game (Game Four) we were able to follow our game plan and hopefully we get to build on the momentum we got from here as well the confidence heading into Game Five,” he added.
In the ongoing series, the teams have alternately won the matches.
TNT last won a PBA title back in 2015 (Commissioner’s Cup) while San Miguel is aiming to bag a second straight title to put itself in a position to win a rare league grand slam.