After the Game One blowout, the Game Two classic then the welcome two-day breather, titleholder San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra slug it out again Wednesday, both aching to take the 2-1 lead in their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven title playoff.
Game Three is set at 7 p.m. over at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
If anything, the first two games indicate how hard one can put away the other.
San Miguel did dominate Ginebra in a rousing 109-82 win in Game One. But the Kings turned things around at least in the first half of their 124-118 overtime win two nights later.
The second half and the extra period of Game Two showed the resilience and fortitude of both teams in a battle.
That has made the Barangay Ginebra Kings and the San Miguel Beermen more convinced things would not get easy in this PBA Finals.
It’s just getting started – a finale that’s really expected to be gut-wrenching between two sides adept at dealing with the physical and mental challenge of the playoffs.
\"This is the best case scenario, that the series is tied 1-1,\" said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “We’re getting to the third game, and both teams are going to have to reach deep into their benches.”
The Beermen blew what could have been a record comeback feat in a final game Sunday, but they drove back home to Manila satisfied with what they’d shown to the PBA fans at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena.
“We’re looking at the positive side, the fact that we’re able to come back from a 26-point deficit. We found solace on that,” said SMB skipper Arwind Santos.
“There’s satisfaction there because it shows how hungry we are. We never give up,” said Marcio Lassiter, who led the way in their third-quarter fightback before his ejection due to technical infractions.
“We’ve just got to recover and just grow from there,” Lassiter added.
Cone wasn’t surprised by the SMB comeback.
“It just goes to show how good San Miguel is in terms of their ability to come back from a 24-point halftime deficit. They just dominated us in the third quarter and most of the fourth,” Cone said. “The only good thing we did is we were resilient. We fought with the ups and down, and we continued to battle. We found a way to put it into overtime.”
The Kings played an amazing first half before the Beermen battled back with a superb final half.
\"We played absolutely perfect basketball in the first half. We were awesome in the first half,” said Cone on their great start that had them leading by 26 at 65-39.
But then they saw that they just couldn’t put the Beermen away easily.
\"We had some good fortune shine on us,\" said Cone, referring to the ouster of Lassiter then the fouling-out of June Mar Fajardo with over two minutes left in regulation play.
“But we still had to battle.”
The two teams are actually expected to fight to the end in this title series.
Where June Mar goes, SMB goes. That\'s just how it is for the defending champion, three-peat seeking, perpetual trophy hungry San Miguel Beermen.
Offensively speaking, June Mar has struggled a bit against the Kings this conference — and that\'s without Greg Slaughter, too! In three games against Ginebra, the Kraken has averaged just 12.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per outing, which is much lower than his conference averages of 19.3 points and 14.8 boards per contest. He is still capable of being productive, sure, as he showed in Game 1, but, somehow, he just cannot dominate the Kings as well as he can most of the other PBA clubs.
Perhaps this is due to Ginebra\'s size. Even without Gregzilla in there, the Kings can throw Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance at the Kraken, and both have certainly shown that they can at least hold their own against the Cebuano giant. Of course, it also goes without saying that coach Tim Cone\'s adjustments make life harder for the three-time PBA MVP.
So what do the Beermen have to do to get June Mar going early and often? Well, one thing is they will have to keep on hitting their outside shots. That should open up space inside for June Mar and make it easier for the ball to get to him in his sweet spots. Also, it\'s important that Beermen more consciously look for their prized slotman down low. Fajardo had only 5 field goal attempts in Game 2, and that just won\'t cut it. He also had 6 fouls in that game, which prevented him from really being aggressive on either end of the floor. The result? His plus-minus for that particular game was a dismal -12.
Not surprisingly, SMB, despite mounting a searing rally, fell short of the win and lost. Now the series is back to square one, with Ginebra getting a new lease on life and taking a lot of momentum into Game 3.
How can SMB get back on the horse and take control of this series? They have to get June Mar going. It\'s that plain and simple.
LUCENA – Blowing away a 26-point bubble and falling behind entering the home stretch, the Barangay Ginebra Kings had looked goners.
But Joe Devance scored in the nick of time to force overtime and the Gin Kings found a way to deny the San Miguel Beermen from moving within two wins of a PBA Philippine Cup three-peat.
To the delight of majority of the full-house crowd at the Quezon Convention Center here, the Kings didn’t run out of heroes in the extra period as they smothered the Beermen, 124-118, to draw even after two games of the best-of-seven finale.
They break the tie in Game Three at 7p.m. Wednesday over at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Devance, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar and Sol Mercado stood out as the Kings outlasted the Beermen in long, gripping battle.
It was actually one for the books, a hard grind marked by bizarre twists of fates in the closing minutes of regulations.
In the final 3.2 seconds, Devance was blocked by Arwind Santos but he recovered the ball and converted a shot at the buzzer.
Devance then joined forces with Thompson, Aguilar, Mercado and Kevin Ferrer as they pummeled the Beermen, 14-8, in OT to salvage the win.
But the Kings needed great determination to pull it off despite the early exit of key SMB players June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter.
Minus the two, the Beermen came a heartbeat from carving out the biggest come-from-behind win in a final game.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
From a 118-all deadlock, Aguilar, Thompson and Mercado teamed up for a winning 6-0 closing run for the Kings.
Thompson established a new personal career high of 18 rebounds and also came through with 18 points and eight assists in a near triple-double performance.
Aguilar piled up 23 points and 12 rebounds, Ferrer fired 21 points in an explosive off-the-bench job while Devance, and Mercado combined for 27 markers, 14 boards and 10 dish-outs as the Kings bounced back from their 82-109 blowout loss in Game One.
Ferrer exploded with a career-best quarter output of 18 points as he starred in their scorching second-quarter rampage that gave them a 67-43 bubble at the half.
But Lassiter exploded for 16 of his 21 points in the third quarter, leading the Beermen’s stunning comeback from 26 down before heading to the exit on a technical foul for a taunting act on Mercado. Earlier, he was called a flagrant foul on Ferrer.
Lassiter had made 5-of-10 three-pointers and was SMB’s leading scorer by the time he left the game.
Meanwhile, Fajardo fouled out with over two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But SMB second-stringers Ronald Tubid and Gabby Espinas helped pick up the slack, and the Beermen went on to drag the Kings in a long, hard, agonizing battle.
Two free throws by Aguilar then a layup by Thompson on a defensive breakdown by the Beermen enabled the Kings to finally ease the pressure at 122-118.
San Miguel sees no cause for a celebration after blowing out Barangay Ginebra in game 1.
The never-say-die culture of Ginebra is something that they are well aware of and they will do whatever it takes to avoid a rousing comeback by their opponents.
“Para sa amin, hindi ko pa nakikita na nakakalayo na kami at nakakalamang na kami sa kanila,” said Arwind Santos.
“Siguro nakauna kami pero hindi dapat makalimutan kung paano kami nanalo dapat from start to finish dapat gawin parin naming ang dapat naming gawin. Respetuhin namin sila kapag maglalaro. Makipagsabayan kami para manalo.”
In the 3rd quarter of game 1, SMB was able to post a 36-point lead.
In what seems to be a dominating win, something that others believe as the story of the entire series, Marcio Lassiter would like to stress out that Ginebra is still being coached by one of the best in PBA history -- Tim Cone.
“Honestly, it is just one win. If we win by one point or thirty points – it is still one win for us. We still need three more wins – they still need four,” said Lassiter. “It is good that (this game) kind of rested the guys but at the same time e need to step-up and be ready for game 2. I know they are going to make adjustments.”
Heading to Game 2, the Beermen know that in whatever venue, the crowd will always be against them.
“We know, out of town, the crowd is going crazy for Ginebra,” said Chris Ross. “We just have to come out and try to silence the crowd and make some adjustments.”
Story by: Ernest Hernandez
Photo by: Peter Baltazar
Barangay Ginebra dropped the first game of the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup Finals to San Miguel, 109-82. The loss was humiliating for Ginebra since the game seemed to be decided as early as the first quarter when they trailed by as much as 15 points.
Ginebra head coach Tim Cone takes the blame for bringing in his troops unprepared.
“We were horrible. All throughout the game – from start to finish. We weren’t ready and that is on me. I should have the guys ready but they are not ready,” said Cone.
Even if Ginebra just came off from a gruelling seven-game series against the Star Hotshots, Cone points out that fatigue shouldn’t be an excuse for giving the game away to the Beermen.
“It shouldn’t be an excuse on what happened out there. We didn’t have anything tonight.”
“No. Zero. Absolutely none,” said Cone when he was asked if he saw anything positive in their loss.
“The only positive is that it is over with and we can focus on Game 2 – honestly,” Cone quickly added.
But game 2 comes at a price as the team will only have a day's rest, including a four-hour drive to Lucena City for Sunday's 6:30pm finals battle at the Quezon Convention Center.
Until then, Cone wants his team to forget game 1, move forward and most of all channel their never-say-die spirit and recall how they win games.
“It is over with and we will move on. We are not going to allow this game to define us. We have to move forward in the series.”
Story by: Ernest Hernandez
Photo by: Peter Baltazar