Keys to the game for San Miguel and Ginebra in Game 5

End or extend?

The San Miguel Beermen are looking to advance to the Finals of the 2017-2018 PBA Philippine Cup, following a 102-81 conquest of the Barangay Ginebra Kings in Game 4 of the semifinals last March 14. With their sights set on claiming a record fourth-straight Philippine Cup championship, the Beermen – holding a 3-1 series lead – take their first crack of ending the compelling semifinals in tonight’s Game 5 at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Coach Leo Austria and the Beermen aim for an outright spot in the championship round for the PBA season’s most coveted crown, but not without a fight from the crowd-favorite Gin Kings.

SAN MIGUEL

– Coach Leo Austria had to tweak his usual starting lineup in Game 4, due to a thigh injury that hit Chris Ross. Inserted into the starter’s role was swingman Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, who proved to be more than just an able replacement for Ross. With Marcio Lassiter sliding down to the two-guard spot, the taller Ganuelas-Rosser – starting at the small forward position – was the tall wing defender needed by San Miguel to stop weak side cuts and to match-up Joe Devance at the low block. MGR came up with a double-double performance, scoring 12 points with 10 assists and 6 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. With Ross’ health still in question for Game 5, MGR would probably be called upon once again to the starting unit and be an effective replacement for Coach Leo Austria’s usual starter.

– San Miguel’s 2-3 zone defense was in full effect at the first period of Game 4. With June Mar Fajardo protecting the shaded area, the Gin Kings were left to scour for points from the perimeter. However, San Miguel’s wing defenders prevented Ginebra from swinging the ball around the arc and hitting those zone-breaking three-point shots. The 2-3 zone would probably be the Beermen’s weapon of choice in Game 4 if the Gin Kings continue to struggle from the three-point land.

– On the other hand, the Beermen made a living from the three-point area in Game 4. San Miguel torched Ginebra from the three-point line making 12 out of 25 attempts, with eight of the conversions coming from the duo of Marcio Lassiter (5/10) and Alex Cabagnot (3/5). With the constant triple-teaming on June Mar Fajardo by the Ginebra defense, expect the leather to be kicked out to these San Miguel gunners as they continue to patrol the arc.

– San Miguel’s “wildcard” in Game 4 was Chris Ross. Thigh injury and all, Ross willed himself to provide quality minutes and inspiration for the Beermen, scoring 11 points on 3 of 3 shooting from the three-point region. The gritty San Miguel playmaker may continue to defy the doctor’s orders, and may see limited court time just to contribute to the Beermen’s cause in Game 5.

GINEBRA

– Greg Slaughter has not played a single game in this semifinals series. His absence easily puts Ginebra at a disadvantage in the rebounding department. However, this does not give the Gin Kings an excuse to concede the battle for the boards with June Mar Fajardo and the rest of the Beermen. Ginebra was outrebounded by San Miguel in Game 4, 48-39, with Fajardo collaring 13 caroms against smaller defenders. Facing elimination, the Gin Kings would have to continuously fight for the rebound at all cost.

– From 37% (9/24) in Game 3, Ginebra’s three-point shooting percentage sank to 19% (4/21) in Game 4. Ginebra would have no choice but to convert their three-pointers – the potent zone-buster – if San Miguel would once again employ the 2-3 zone defense. If Prince Caperal or Joe Devance – Ginebra’s big men who can shoot from outside – would be able to pull June Mar Fajardo to the perimeter and force him to defend outside the paint, the driving lanes will open for the likes of Scottie Thompson or Sol Mercado.

– “Missing in action” for Ginebra in Game 4 were Prince Caperal, Sol Mercado, and Scottie Thompson. In their Game 3 victory, the trio tallied 29 points to complement the scoring of their main men, LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar. But in Game 4, the triumvirate scored just 9 points, thanks to a 20% (3/15) field goal clip. It did not help that Thompson was reportedly dehydrated and was nursing a fever during that game. A rejuvenated Thompson would be what the Ginebra faithful will hope for in Game 5.

– Outside of Tenorio and Aguilar, Coach Tim Cone would have to summon the strength of the rest of the Gin Kings to contribute to their offense. Game 4 saw Tenorio and Aguilar combine for 51 points, shooting 60% (21/35) from the field. However, the duo found very little support from the rest of the Gin Kings who scored just 30 points on a paltry 28% (11/39) shooting percentage.

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