MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The San Miguel Beermen claimed the one trophy that had long evaded their grasp, as they crushed the TNT KaTropa in Game 6 to claim the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup championship.
Banking on superb performances from their big guns, the Beermen demolished the KaTropa, 115-91, in Game 6 on Sunday in front of over 10,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum to close out the best-of-seven Finals series.
It was San Miguel's 24th PBA title out of 38 Finals appearances, but it was only their first Commissioner's Cup championship since 2000, when they beat Sta. Lucia in five games.
"TNT… brought out the best in us," said SMB coach Leo Austria after their triumph. "Both of us deserved to win the championship, but we're really fortunate, because my players really wanted to win. This is the Cup that we haven't won in the last 17 years."
Charles Rhodes, the Best Import of the conference, spearheaded San Miguel's charge with 30 points on 12-of-14 shooting, on top of 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. Alex Cabagnot displayed his all-around game by tallying a triple-double of 19 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists – the first triple-double by a local in a Finals game since 2005.
Marcio Lassiter torched TNT for 24 points, while Chris Ross, the Best Player of the Conference, had 14 points, seven rebounds, and three assists while playing his usual brand of lockdown defense on the TNT guards. Arwind Santos came off the bench for 17 points and seven boards.
Remarkably, San Miguel won comfortably despite reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo struggling for only two points and four rebounds in 14 foul-plagued minutes. Instead, they stuck to a smaller line-up, surrounding Rhodes with wings who were all capable of knocking down shots from beyond the arc.
"Alam natin na June Mar is a very important piece of our team," said Austria. "But this is a game of adjustment, and we can adjust in the game by fielding in a small line-up. Naging effective 'yun para sa amin."
SANTOS WAXES HOT
The Beermen broke the game open late in the first quarter, unleashing a 14-5 run that turned a slim 23-21 lead into a more comfortable 37-26 advantage. Santos was at the forefront of the run, scoring seven points including the booming triple that gave San Miguel the 11-point spread.
San Miguel turned on the jets in the second period, with Lassiter getting untracked for back-to-back three-pointers that made it 56-40. They built a 20-point lead, 62-42, at the half, with Rhodes completing an alley-oop from Cabagnot to highlight their dominant performance.
TNT would not make it easy for them, however. Rookie Roger Pogoy and import Joshua Smith anchored a 9-0 burst that made it a 13-point game, 55-68, forcing SMB coach Leo Austria to burn a timeout. The Beermen showed their poise in the next stretch, outscoring TNT 14-2 to make it an 82-57 game.
The KaTropa made one last run at the top of the fourth period, as veterans Ranidel de Ocampo, Jayson Castro, and Kelly Williams scored six straight points to make it 75-94 with still 9:49 left to play. It proved to be their final stand, as the backcourt tandem of Cabagnot and Ross took over, scoring SMB's next seven points including back-to-back lay-ups.
San Miguel's lead would balloon to 29 points, 113-84, as Austria fielded in his little-used reserves to end the game.
San Miguel's full strength as an offensive juggernaut was in display all throughout, as they torched the KaTropa from all areas. The Beermen shot an amazing 51% from the field, including 12-of-29 from beyond the arc. Lassiter knocked down five triples, while Cabagnot had three more.
They assisted on 24 of their 43 field goals, and turned TNT's 21 turnovers into 30 points. Perhaps most impressively, SMB's bench – with Santos at the helm – outscored the KaTropa reserves, 26-19.
Austria stressed that his players' determination to win was the deciding factor in the series.
"They are self-motivated," he said. "They want to win, because of what they felt during the previous championships, and they don't want to give that up. The glory of winning a championship is something you cannot buy."
Troy Rosario led TNT with 21 points, but Smith, their hulking import, managed only 15 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Stunningly, Smith attempted only seven field goals in the game, making five of them.
Castro had 13 points and six rebounds, but committed six turnovers. The rookie Pogoy finished with 16 points.
Cabagnot, the Finals MVP, averaged 20.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.3 steals in six games. His triple-double was the first by a local since Willie Miller – then playing for TNT – tallied a 24-10-10 line in Game 2 the 2005 Philippine Cup Finals against Barangay Ginebra.
SAN MIGUEL 115 - Rhodes 30, Lassiter 24, Cabagnot 19, Santos 17, Ross 14, Espinas 5, Semerad 4, Fajardo 2, De Ocampo 0, Heruela 0, McCarthy 0, Van Opstal 0, Agovida. 0,
TNT 91 - Rosario 21, Pogoy 16, Smith 15, Castro 13, De Ocampo 7, Garcia 7, Williams 4, Tautuaa 4, Rosales 2, Semerad 2, Reyes 0.
Quarterscores: 37-26, 62-42, 94-69, 115-91.
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