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Hotshots, Beermen gun for crucial victory

The explosive Magnolia duo of Calvin Abueva and Paul Lee has what it takes to mess up San Miguel’s bounceback bid in today’s Game 5 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals series. | Photograph by Joey Sanchez Mendoza for the Daily Tribune @tribunephl_joey

The Philippine Basketball Association best-of-seven finals series had been reduced into a best-of-three affair with Magnolia and San Miguel Beer disputing a crucial win that will put them a heartbeat away from clinching the Commissioner’s Cup title.

Action is set at 6:15 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with both the Hoshots and the Beermen tipped to go all out in Game 5 for a crucial win that could either make or break their goal of winning the title of the season-opening conference.

In the first two games of the series, San Miguel’s offense had been overwhelming as it averaged 106 points per game, thanks to the red-hot shooting of import Bennie Boatwright, June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter and Best Player of the Conference CJ Perez.

But the Hotshots responded, tightening their defensive screws to shut down the sizzling Beermen and limit them to an average of 82.5 points to clinch the victories in Games 3 and 4 and knot the series at two games apiece.

Now, the series is back to square one and whoever will come up victorious in this crucial Game 5 will have a good shot at winning the title.

The biggest adjustment that Magnolia made was assigning import Tyler Bey to shut down Boatwright, who had been averaging 31 points in Games 1 and 2.

With Bey shadowing the flamboyant former University of Southern California star, his offense sputtered as he finished with only 11 points in their 88-80 win in Game 3. Still, his effort was impressive as Boatwright was held to only two points in the opening quarter and four in the third period that crushed his morale entering the final quarter.

But in Game 4, Bey rediscovered his shooting form as he finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds with six steals while making life difficult for Boatwright, who was limited to just 16 points on a forgettable 5-of-16 shooting from the field.

Boatwright even went without a single field goal in the first quarter and only made a field goal in the fourth. Most of his shots were made in the second quarter where he had two as Bey’s defense took him out of his comfort zone.

“TBey embraced that match up against Bennie,” Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said

“He’s a very smart player and he realized he can play both ends of the floor. But the most important thing is he played good defense on Boatwright.”

“But it wasn’t just the one-on-one defense, but he also helps on the weak side.”

For Bey, it’s more about stepping up to the challenge, knowing that by limiting Boatwright, Magnolia will have a bigger chance of winning.

“I know Bennie is going to come out aggressive each and every game, especially after their loss. But the whole team stepped up and my teammates helped me as well.”

Stepping up is what the Hotshots exactly did as their energy on defense had a big effect on their offensive game with Paul Lee and Mark Barroca each scoring 14  points, Ian Sangalang taking advantage on the absence of seven-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo for the most part in the second half and tallying 13 markers, Jio Jalalon producing 10 and Calvin Abueva chipping in nine markers while supplying the energy with 11 rebounds.

Fajardo felt tightness in his calf and the Beermen are hoping that he would be ready to play in the pivotal fifth game of the series.

Without their main man in the middle for the long stretch, San Miguel was forced to play with a small lineup, something that worked to the advantage of the smaller, but quicker, Magnolia squad.


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