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Wild Card

Now a best-of-3 for TNT, SMB

It would have been easily a triple whammy for TNT, but the San Miguel Beermen refused to make it another great day for the KaTropa in the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup title playoffs Sunday.

After Terrence Jones was honored as Best Import and Jayson Castro emerged surprise winner as Best Player of the Conference in pre-Game 4 ceremonies, the Beermen went on to roll back the KaTropa, 106-101, and reduce the best-of-seven series into a best-of-three affair.

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From a second three-point performance in the playoffs, Alex Cabagnot sizzled with 25 points to back up another double-barrelled onslaught by Chris McCullough and June Mar Fajardo as the Beermen forged a second tie with the KaTropa at 2-2 in their quest for a second straight title after ruling the Philippine Cup for a record fifth time in May.

The tiebreaking Game 5 is set this Wednesday with Game 6 scheduled Friday. SMB won the next two games from 2-all to clinch the title over TNT in their last championship clash in 2017, but if a Game 7 becomes necessary this time, it will be held this Sunday.

TNT, the runaway elimination topnotcher seeking an eighth title in 19 finals, opened the playoffs with a 109-96 rout then took a 2-1 lead after rallying from 17 points to win, 115-105. In both losses, Cabagnot finished with three points each.

But the left-handed guard was unstoppable at the start of Game 4, firing 13 points in the first quarter alone then closing the third period with a triple that helped SMB took an 86-69 lead. And when TNT threatened at 96-98 with 40 seconds left, Cabagnot delivered four straight free throws after a McCullough assist to Fajardo that finally doomed the KaTropa.

McCullough led SMB with 27 points, Fajardo added 22 and Von Pessumal contributed 14. Along with Cabagnot, they scored all but 16 of the team’s total output.

Jones wound up with a game-high 32 points, but the runaway choice as Best Import actually pulled the KaTropa down by missing eight free throws overall.

TNT’s foul-shooting woes also helped SMB escape with a double overtime decision, 127-125, in Game 2. A missed free throw by TNT’s Don Trollano allowed Terrence Romeo to forge overtime at 106-all. With TNT leading 114-112 with 5.3 seconds left in the first overtime, Troy Rosario blew two free throws to pave the way for a fastbreak-tying layup by Cabagnot.

Trollano and Castro each bungled a free throw in the second extension before SMB came up with a decisive 5-3 finish helped by back-to-back three-point misses by Castro in the dying seconds.

The last two Best Imports of the tournament boosted their teams to the title—Justin Browlee of Ginebra San Miguel last year and Charles Rhodes of SMB in 2017. Rhodes returned for SMB this year but was replaced by McCullough with the Beermen languishing near the bottom with a 2-5 record.

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TAGS: 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Basketball
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