MANILA, Philippines – National team and Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin is expecting an "absolutely epic" Game 7 between San Miguel and Alaska when the two squads face off for the final time in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Defending champion San Miguel has already made history. After going down 0-3 in the series, they forced a winner-takes-all Game 7 with a 100-89 win last Friday – becoming the first team in PBA history to do so.
"Great series, great series," Baldwin told reporters during the Spin.ph Sportsman of the Year Awards Night last Saturday.
Baldwin, who is a consultant with the Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters, said he has to be neutral and refused to publicly declare which team he is rooting for.
Yet he made special mention of the fighting spirit of the Beermen, who won in overtime in Games 4 and 5 before dominating the fourth quarter of Game 6 to force the do-or-die game.
"You really have to admire the courage of San Miguel to fight back from down 0-3," he said. "It's so easy to give up in those situations, I can tell you."
"Everybody knew they were capable of that, but still – doing it is something else," he stressed.
Baldwin, however, made it clear that the top-seeded Alaska Aces should not be underestimated even after they failed to be the first team to register a sweep of the defending champions of a conference.
"This Alaska team – if there's something that they can do, they defy expectations every time," he said.
"So I think Game 7 is gonna be an absolute epic," he added.
READ: Fajardo dominates Alaska in fourth, SMB forces Game 7
Moreover, Baldwin is not worried about San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo, who played in Game 5 and 6 after suffering a knee injury in their semifinal series against Rain or Shine. SMB head coach Leo Austria initially said Fajardo will return if the series reached a seventh game, but Fajardo surprisingly suited up in Game 5.
The center came off the bench, played 16 minutes and 29 seconds, and finished with 13 points. In Game 6, he played 22 minutes and 10 seconds – again as a reserve – and had 16 points and seven rebounds.
"San Miguel takes great care of (Fajardo)," Baldwin said. "He wouldn't be out there playing if he wasn't ready to play."
"And you know, if the injury recurs, it recurs. That's life. This is sports, that happens. But I'm not worried about that," he added.
Fajardo, a two-time PBA MVP and the Best Player of the Conference in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup, will likely be the centerpiece of the Gilas Pilipinas squad that will compete in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila in July.
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