Keys to Victory: Game 3 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals

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A tiebreaker set on Easter.

After a week-long break, the San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots are set to wage war once again in Game 3 of the 2017-2018 PBA Philippine Cup Finals.

Last March 23, the Hotshots opened up the Finals series with a surprising 105-103 victory over the heavily-favored Beermen, who are seeking a fourth-straight Philippine Cup championship. Two days later, the Beermen evened things up with a rousing 92-77 win in Game 2.

With their championship showdown tied at one game apiece, the Beermen and the Hotshots both look to gain an upper hand on the resumption of the Best-of-7 title series scheduled tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

SAN MIGUEL


Three is still the key. It was another day in the shooting range for Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos in Game 2, as the duo combined for 10 out of the 13 three-pointers made by San Miguel. Lassiter and Santos had more three-point baskets than the Hotshots, who made just 7 out of 23 treys. With the Hotshots reducing a 21-point deficit to just 7 with 8:26 remaining in the game, the Beermen fired back with a 10-0 run – highlighted by a three-pointer each from Lassiter and Santos.

In the series thus far, the Beermen are shooting 37% (23/63) from the three-point arc, compared to the Hotshots’ 30% (16/54). With the Magnolia defense swarming June Mar Fajardo on the low block, Coach Leo Austria has surrounded his prized big man with outside snipers who are capable of hitting the long ball. If the Hotshots still choose to employ the same defensive scheme on Fajardo, expect the shooters of San Miguel to go on a field day at the three-point line in Game 3.

Cashing in on freebies. Aside from making the most out of their three-point attempts, the Beermen have been registering remarkable numbers from the free throw line. In Game 2, the Beermen made all of their 15 attempts from the charity stripe. The Beermen are shooting 90% (36/40) from the foul line in the Finals series so far, which eclipses the Hotshots’ free throw clip which is at 58% (14/24). With decent free throw shooters in their lineup, the Beermen are just as confident to troop to the foul line as they are in hoisting three-pointers.

Wary of the Weapon. Game 2 was a bounce-back of sorts for Hotshots guard Paul Lee. After scoring just 4 points in Game 1, the former UE stalwart had a better showing in their Game 2 loss with 13 points. Still, the Beermen should be on the lookout for an imminent scoring explosion from Lee. Their perimeter and pick-and-roll defense should be able to defuse the “Lee-thal Weapon”.

Support for the Kraken. Compared to the series opener, June Mar Fajardo’s scoring output dipped considerably in Game 2. After scoring game-high 31 points in Game 1, the reigning MVP just scored just 12 points in Game 2 on 42% (5/12) shooting from the field. With Fajardo’s shooting struggles, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot carried the scoring load for San Miguel to notch the Game 2 victory. After a dismal 1-point output in Game 1, the San Miguel bench unit responded with a 20-point contribution in Game2. Fajardo might not post his usual MVP numbers, but the offensive output for the Beermen can also come elsewhere.

MAGNOLIA


Money on second chances. There are a few stat lines that have the Magnolia Hotshots ahead of the San Miguel Beermen. One of which is the offensive rebounding department. Despite the presence of June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos in the paint, these gritty Hotshots are grabbing 20 offensive rebounds per game compared to just 11.5 by the Beermen. This offensive rebounding advantage translates to an average of 24.5 second chance points for the series underdogs. The Beermen, on the other hand, register just 11.5 second chance points per outing. This +13.5 point disparity in second chance opportunities might be what the Hotshots have to exploit to notch a Game 3 win.

Pedal to the metal. For every turnover or every missed shot by the Beermen, the Hotshots are looking to pounce on every opportunity to run the break and finish in transition. The statistics show that the Hotshots are averaging 14.5 fastbreak points per contest – 7 points ahead of the Beermen. With youth on their side, the Hotshots would look to Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca to quicken the pace of the game and score on the fast break.

Playing catch-up in crunch time. Games 1 and 2 saw the Hotshots face 20-point deficits, mount a comeback in the fourth quarter but end up with contrasting results. After escaping Game 1 with a come-from-behind win, the Hotshots’ comeback bid from 21 points down fell short in Game 2. Magnolia cannot simply rely on fatigue or complacency to catch up with the Beermen. For Game 3, the Hotshots should strive to keep things close by the end of the third quarter to be able drag the Beermen into the deep waters in the deciding period.

No slumping for Sangalang. Just like Fajardo, Magnolia slotman Ian Sangalang was in a scoring slump in Game 2 – a performance that paled in comparison to his numbers in the series opener. After powering his way to 29 points in Game 1, the big man out of Lubao, Pampanga posted just 11 points in Game 2 with the San Miguel defense collapsing on him on the post. Coach Chito Victolero expects his prized forward to break out of the funk and contribute to the Magnolia offense in a big way.

Images sourced from: www.pba.ph

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