MANILA, Philippines - Coming from a decisive win and a thriller of a finish that netted the team two victories, San Mig Coffee will be coming in brimming with confidence against Rain or Shine in Game Four tonight of the PLDT MyDSL PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven finale at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Mixers have the initiative and the momentum on their side as they go for a big 3-1 lead in a duel that had lived up to all the frills of an evenly-matched championship series.
After going through tough, full-stretch quarterfinals and semifinals series versus Talk and Text and Barangay Ginebra, San Mig Coffee seems to have gained its second wind as it shoots for a third straight win following back-to-back victories in Game Two (80-70) and Game Three (77-76).
It’s the Mixers’ first successive victories in their last 10 outings. The first time they went back-to-back in the tourney, the Mixers stretched it to a five-game run, enabling them to salvage a spot in the best-of-three quarterfinals.
Petron Blaze’s Junmar Fajardo, meanwhile, is tipped to be named the Best Player of the Conference before the Mixers and the Elasto Painters resume their battle at 8 p.m. with the San Mig Coffee looking to close in on a first-ever back-to-back championships for the Purefoods/San Miguel Foods franchise.
Coming back from the trauma of losing Game One on extra lapses with two wins gives the Mixers a morale boost to edge closer to the all-Filipino crown.
It could have been 3-0 had San Mig Coffee not blown away Game One, 80-83, as the Mixers wavered at the finish that enabled the E-Painters to steal the game.
“Our defense is holding up and we need to continue with that,” said San Mig coach Tim Cone whose troops held the E-Painters (averaging over 90 points a game through the semis) to a measly 76.3 norm in the finals.
Cone himself is surprised with what they have been done.
“Hard to imagine that we can beat RoS three times in a row, but that is our challenge going into Game Four and we’re certainly going to take it on,” said Cone.
“We were lucky to escape with a win in Game Three, but we need to be more than lucky. We need to be more solid to beat a team like RoS,” Cone also said.
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao was disappointed but not discouraged by their Game Three loss.
“I’m not really discouraged because I know at a certain point, we could just have broken the game away,” said Guiao.
“We learned our lesson on that and we just have to take that lesson into Game Four,” Guiao added.
Rain or Shine slowly opened a nine-point gap, 39-30, only to lose it quickly on San Mig Coffee’s eight-point flurry, pounding the E-Painters’ defensive lapses in the final minute of the first half.
Mark Barroca beat the shot-clock buzzer with a one-hand floater then PJ Simon and Alex Mallari struck with back-to-back treys to make the game close, 38-39, at the half.
“Those back-to-back baskets were crucial for us,” said Cone.
Guiao played a small rotation (by his standard) in Game Three as he missed the services of the injury-hit Ryan Araña and opted not to field in rookie guard/forward Alex Nuyles.
Araña said he would rejoin their practice yesterday and see if he can suit up in Game Four.