Tropang Giga, Beermen eye pivotal series win no. 3

Games Today(Smart Araneta Coliseum)3 p.m. – San Miguel vs. Meralco*6 p.m. – Magnolia vs. TnT**TnT, SMB lead series, 2-1

Jun Mar Fajardo-led San Miguel Beer — PHILIPPINE STAR/RUSSEL PALMA

AT THE halfway mark on the road to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup finals, titlist TnT and San Miguel Beer (SMB) rev up for a spirited drive for win No. 3 on Wednesday’s Game 4 to move even closer to their intended destination.

The Tropang Giga, fresh from stealing a thrilling 93-92 series go-ahead last Sunday, aim to go two-in-a-row against Magnolia at 6 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and get on the hill in the tough race-to-four semifinals contest.

The Beermen, who regained control after posting a 96-91 verdict last time, carry out a similar mission against Meralco in their 3 p.m. tussle.

The first three matches have been a slugfest and TnT coach Chot Reyes expects the fourth gig to be no different, especially with the Hotshots pushing for the equalizer.

“It’s going to be much harder,” said Mr. Reyes, who hopes the two-day break between Games 3 and 4 is enough to recharge his troops for the next grind.

The Tropang Giga’s resolve was tested to the hilt in the third outing. Mikey Williams was held down to 15 and missed a gimme layup, but Jayson Castro took over in the stretch and scored the winning triple as Poy Erram banged in a game-high 22.

“Mikey’s a big part of our offense, but we win games as a team, with everyone’s contribution,” said Mr. Reyes.

“It’s not only Mikey they’re defending but also Jayson, Roger (Pogoy) and our other bigs. So it’s really going to take a total team effort to get two more wins.”

Like TnT, the Beermen brace for a retaliatory strike from the Bolts.

“Meralco is really a tough team to beat. You can’t blink against them; they’re always well-prepared,” said SMB mentor Leo Austria.

Although June Mar Fajardo, Mo Tautuaa and Vic Manuel have been having their way inside, Mr. Austria still emphasized the need to do a better job in preventing Meralco from getting offensive rebounds and easy shots on the other end. Last game, the Bolts got 19 offensive boards against SMB’s 12 and made 22 second-chance points, six more than the Beermen’s.

Meralco counterpart Norman Black, meanwhile, listed two major points to enhance their chances of tying the series.

“We just don’t have the size to really match up with them so we have to shoot the ball well and we have to be scrappy,” he said.

“We’ll probably end up committing more fouls as the series goes on, but at the same time, that’s how we’re going to beat them. We have to be physical and be out there scrapping, try to control the boards and try to control June Mar because he’s really the axis that the San Miguel team rotates around.” — Olmin Leyba