(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
6:03 p.m. — San Miguel vs TNT
June Mar Fajardo and San Miguel brace for the much-awaited return of TNT Tropang Giga head coach Chot Reyes in Game 4 of the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
TNT has confirmed the presence of Reyes for the Tropang Giga in a bid to level the best-of-seven title series following the Beermen’s 108-100 victory in Game 3 late Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Game time is at 6:03 p.m. as the Beermen attempt to move on the cusp of winning another prestigious all-Filipino crown.
Prior to that, the league will award the Best Player of the Conference plum among top contenders in Fajardo, CJ Perez and Tropang Giga sniper Mikey Williams.
Among the three, Fajardo has been shining the brightest.
The 6-foot-10 Cebuano displayed his best game in the series by posting a stellar game of 27 points and 27 rebounds in their 108-100 overtime win in Game 3 late Friday.
It was Fajardo’s 14th career 20-20 game, his best performance since exploding for 42 and 20 rebounds in a 108-99 Game 5 victory over Magnolia during the 2018 Philippine Cup Finals.
Jericho Cruz and Robbie Herndon, meanwhile, took over in the extra period and combined for 26 points and limited the cold-shooting TNT to six points in the last five minutes.
With rock-solid momentum on its side, San Miguel head coach Leo Austria is confident that his wards will sustain their impressive attack and defense that forced the Tropang Giga to a disastrous 24 turnovers.
“As a player, as a team, we just keep on competing. There’s a lot at stake, the focus of the players is to win the game,” Austria said.
“We always say that we are the powerhouse but TNT is a solid team. They have a lot of national players and superstars but what’s more important is the experience of our players.”
“With the arrival of their coach, they will be better next game.”
True enough, TNT is determined to avoid a dangerous 1-3 hole.
Deputy coach Sandy Arespacochaga confirmed that Reyes will be in charge in Game 4 after his recent duty with Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in Beirut.
In their past three games, Roger Pogoy has been carrying the offensive cudgels for TNT by registering team-high 25 points in Game 3.
However, it was not enough as the Tropang Giga suffered a 39 percent shooting and even shot an underwhelming 19-of-32 from the stripe.
“The most important thing for us right now is what’s next. Coach Chot will be back and that’s a very big boost for us,” Arespacochaga said.
“We had our chances and opportunities, but of course San Miguel is deep and their other guards stepped up.”
“It’s unfortunate that we did not win. With regards to the things that we emphasized, our players followed the game plan.”