(Mall of Asia Arena)
5:45 p.m. — San Miguel vs TNT
San Miguel Beer wants to continue flexing its depth as it shoots for a 2-1 lead against TNT Tropang Giga in Game 3 of the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup best-of-seven championship series today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Action fires off at 5:45 p.m. as the Beermen aim to extend their winning ways and gain the upper hand in this thrilling series that is now down into a race-to-three affair.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria anticipates a strong Tropang Giga comeback after their bench did most of the damage in their 109-100 win in Game 2 that squared the series late Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Vic Manuel, who is on a quest for his first PBA crown, led the Beermen’s second half surge by scoring 12 of his 20 points while finals debutant CJ Perez poured 23 points and five rebounds.
Veteran Marcio Lassiter fired 19 markers and six boards, June Mar Fajardo had 13 markers and eight rebounds, and Mo Tautuaa and Jericho Cruz connived for 23 points off the bench.
Austria knows that they can’t go with only Perez or Fajardo carrying the offense, so he encourages the rest of the team to step up and duplicate their performance in their masterful Game 2 win.
They, however, still enjoy a huge advantage as Tropang Giga will continue to miss the commanding presence of coach Chot Reyes, who is still in Beirut to lead Gilas Pilipinas in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
“Slowly, we’re regaining our chemistry. We’ve been telling them that basketball is not about June Mar or CJ and they have to play as a team,” Austria said.
“We’ve been losing our killer instinct lately. Lucky for us, the pride of the players stepped up. We want to remove that tendency of relaxing because we are in a championship game.”
He added that they have to be cautious because the battle is far from over.
“I know they will adjust, we will see and try to figure things out tomorrow when we watch the tapes. I’m sure TNT will bounce back because they know what we are doing.”
After a stunning 86-84 opening win on Sunday, TNT suddenly lost its steam.
The Tropang Giga were outclassed in every department and even Roger Pogoy’s 28-point explosion was not enough to give them the win.
The squad hit another snag as Mikey Williams suffered an ankle injury that limited him to only seven points on an ice-cold 3-of-7 clip from the field.
But Williams is determined to bounce back from that upsetting night.
“It was a sprained ankle. I mean, I didn’t really see the play, I just remember being on the floor. I just had to push through for my team but it was hurting the whole game,” Williams said.
“I’ll be ready for Game 3, I will do whatever I have to do, if it’s cryochamber or an iced bath. I’ll figure out a way to get better.”