San Miguel Beer got more than a 1-2 punch in Game 4 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals with TNT on Sunday night which the Beermen desperately needed to win.
That’s why this best-of-seven series has been reduced to a race-to-two affair, with the Beermen, seeking to nail the second jewel in their latest chase of a Triple Crown sweep, having some sort of momentum—and a lot of confidence boost—going into the crucial fifth game on Wednesday.
With June Mar Fajardo and Chris McCullough reliable on both ends as usual, the Beermen pulled out a 106-101 win after Alex Cabagnot became the third side of a battering ram that rattled the KaTropa, and the others delivering in their own little ways to make this a series once again.
“The players understand what made us a great team in the past: Everybody should be involved,” said coach Leo Austria as Cabagnot and the sweet-shooting Von Pessumal made life a little easier for Fajardo and McCullough to operate underneath.
While four of his starters scored all but 16 of their points that night, the others made shots that they needed when the Beermen were under siege the most.
Chris Ross dropped some crucial free throws and was the team’s best defender yet again, while former MVP Arwind Santos and Christian Standhardinger contributed defensively.
Mark Dickel, who calls the shots for the KaTropa, admitted being baffled for the first time in the series, unlike in his first loss—a 127-125 double overtime defeat—where he rued poor free throw shooting and bad calls in the stretch that did them in.
“They (Beermen) gave us some different issues to deal with,” he told reporters.
“When we make a lot of shots, we’re pretty tough, and we didn’t make as many shots,” Dickel, whose first two wins in the series came at an average winning margin of 11.5 points, said.
“[Their] defense obviously looks better when [we] miss, so you know, for us, we just got to get fresh and find a way to come back,” said Dickel.
This chess match resumes at 7 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum, and it would be very interesting to see how the coaches move their pieces with Austria having some sort of advantage in terms of manpower considering how deep his bench is.
Like in the Beermen’s Game 2 rebound where Terrence Romeo lit up the scoreboard for 29 points.
The San Miguel defense also held down RR Pogoy for the first time in the series, limiting the TNT gunslinger to just nine points.
“They were able to follow our game plan, and I hope this [Game 4 win] will give us some momentum and confidence going to Game 5,” said Austria.
The Beermen have never led in this series, and actually looked like the terrible underdogs after the KaTropa mauled them in a 109-96 series opening win last week.
But that has changed after Game 4, as Fajardo seems to have found a way to solve Terrence Jones’ defense and the help that Dickel has devised in the shaded lane.
Fajardo averaged 24.5 points in the last two games, compared to 17.5 in the first two.
Jones, meanwhile, continues to do it all for the KaTropa, and for TNT to continue setting the pace here, Dickel also needs to get what Austria wants, and that is help for his 1-2 punch.
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