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Beermen try to push weary Hotshots to brink

JUNE Mar Fajardo and San Miguel Beer shoot for a crucial win when they battle Magnolia in Game 3 of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals series today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PBA

Game today:

(Smart Araneta Coliseum)

7:30 p.m. — San Miguel vs Magnolia

San Miguel Beer sent a strong statement when it crushed Magnolia in Game 2 of their Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals series over the weekend.

The Beermen will seek to create more damages on the banged-up, weary Hotshots when they march to warzone tonight for a crucial Game 3 victory at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Action starts at 7:30 p.m. with the Beermen looking to deliver the punishing blows that will put them a victory away from sweeping the series and lifting their 29th PBA title.

Obviously employing a war of attrition, the Beermen was successful in outrunning, outgunning, outhustling, and demoralizing the Hotshots, who nearly lost key personnel who have what it takes to dictate the outcome of the series.

Jio Jalalon, Magnolia’s defensive lynchpin in the backcourt, tweaked his ankle in the first half of Game 2, leaving him hobbling the rest of the way that resulted to a sorry 85-103 loss in Game 2.

Another fierce defender, Calvin Abueva, was also a liability as he lost his psychological war with the Beermen in Game 2. He had a forgettable night with three points, seven rebounds and two assists.

But his on-court struggle was only half of the story.

After the game, Abueva suffered another meltdown and had to be restrained when he confronted the wife of San Miguel forward Mo Tautuaa on their way to the restroom.

Abueva, who had a history of running wild on and off the court, even hurled some choice words and challenged the 6-foot-7 Tautuaa to a fistfight.

Prior to that, he had a verbal exchange with San Miguel Beer coach Jorge Gallent, citing his physical disability that was caught on camera. Gallent, who lost his right eye to a motorcycle accident in 1988, just kept his cool and coached his way to an impressive win that put him on the brink of winning his first PBA title as head coach.

“The sweep is not even on our minds. Our team is thinking how to get four games,” said Gallent, a multi-titled coach in the defunct Philippine Basketball League who is only in his second conference as San Miguel mentor.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial slapped Abueva with a P100,000 fine for taunting Gallent and picking a fight with Tautuaa.

“Abueva apologized to the PBA and to Tautuaa and his wife. They already patched things up,” said Marcial, adding that Abueva and Tautuaa appeared before him a little past lunch on Tuesday.

But whether that rage would fire up Abueva ahead of Game 3 in a must-win encounter for the Hotshots or just simply backfire remains to be seen.

More than taming the “Beast,” Magnolia coach Chito Victolero will also need to figure out ways on getting his boys play their own brand of basketball.

The tournament’s top defensive team just couldn’t stop the firepower of San Miguel and for the second straight game, it gave up more than 100 points — far from the 88 points per game that it allows its previous foes.   

Worse, even Magnolia’s offense sputtered with Paul Lee struggling big time.

Lee was good for only five points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field, missing all four attempts from beyond the arc. In Game 1, he produced only six markers.

Victolero claimed there’s nothing bothering the veteran Lee, who is no stranger to playing in big games being a three-time PBA champion.

“Paul is a veteran and I think he can bring us back in the series,” Victolero said.

“I trust my players. We worked hard for this. We will win together, we will lose together, but for now, our main focus is how to get back on the series.”

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