(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – San Miguel Beer vs TNT
SAN Miguel Beer will face the same enemy it conquered in the last two games of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals, with TNT KaTropa deciding to stick it out with Joshua Smith and the Texters eyeing to improve on the other things to get back in this thing.
With a 2-1 lead and authoritative winners of Games 2 and 3, the Beermen will come into this crucial 7 p.m. encounter at Smart Araneta Coliseum installed as the solid favorites and come closer towards bagging the second jewel of a Grand Slam.
And TNT will try to do it with Smith aboard, with head coach Nash Racela deciding against tapping standby import Mike Myers after identifying the reasons for the last two losses.
“We have to limit our turnovers,” Racela said, knowing that falling into a 1-3 hole could just be too big of a mountain for his Texters to scale, especially against a powerhouse and cohesive team like San Miguel.
TNT had 23 erros in Game 3, with franchise player Jason Castro downplaying the Texters’ struggles with 10 of those boo-boos.
The Beermen are playing solidly, with coach Leo Austria’s job getting easier in the last two outings with even the seldom-used Brian Heruala delivering when needed and the nucleus dominating the opposition.
Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot, Austria’s starting guards, are just two of the pieces that are making the San Miguel machine hum on all cylinders. They will be disputing the Best Player of the Conference award in what is possibly the closest race this league has seen.
Cabagnot and Ross – in something that has never happened before – finished in a dead heat in the statistical points race after the Final Four, with votes from the media and the league as well as fellow players to determine the winner.
No Best Player of the Conference race has been shared by two players before.
That short ceremony will happen minutes before tip-off, with San Miguel’s Charles Rhodes to win the Best Import award mainly for being the perfect fit for the team more than the eye-popping all-around numbers he has been churning out.
“We’re ready for their bounce back,” Austria said after coming off their first break in almost three weeks. “We know that they will be back and have to stop that. We need to be prepared for that because TNT is such a talented team.”
A big fightback is exactly what TNT needs to do, and no less than team owner Manny V. Pangilinan is helping that it happens.
The telecommunications tycoon stopped by practice on Tuesday, joining the team for lunch and giving them a pep talk at Moro Lorenzo Gym inside the Ateneo campus.