April 20, 2019

Beermen aim to bury Fuel Masters on Easter Sunday

THE five-day break the PBA took in observance of the Holy Week has been used by San Miguel Beer and Phoenix Pulse to recharge for their Philippine Cup semifinals duel.

There has also been a lot of reflection thrown in during the respite, one of the musts for the Fuel Masters who are trying to avoid falling into the deepest of holes when the duel resumes Easter Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

After taking the best-of-seven series' first two games, the defending champion Beermen aim to pad their lead to 3-0, one which only they have ever dug themselves out of in the league's first 43 years.

For sure, not if Phoenix could help it.

Even a couple of SMB's key men expect a much tougher stance from Phoenix this time around.

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"It's practically a do-or-die game for them," said Beermen coach Leo Austria following his team's 92-82 win last Monday that followed up its 100-88 victory in the opener.

"They know that to be down 0-3, it would be very hard to come back. We should be really focused for our next game," added Austria.

It is only SMB which has ever come back from such a daunting 0-3 deficit, overcoming Alaska to cop the 2016 edition of the import-less tourney.

Grizzled veteran Arwind Santos doesn't want to be struck by the same lightning.
"Ayaw naming mangyari sa amin 'yun. 'Yun 'yung lesson learned. Ayaw naming mangyari sa amin 'yun," related the former MVP.

"Hangga't maaari, i-derecho namin 'yung magandang ginagawa namin, 'wag kami makalimot."
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Phoenix spent much of the break fine-tuning not only its defense, but also its offense.

In the series' first two games Phoenix has shot just 35 percent from the field to SMB's 43 percent. The Fuel Masters have also forced the Beermen to a total 41 turnovers, but committed 42 themselves.

The biggest question mark for Phoenix coach Louie Alas is how to stifle SMB's multiple threats.

In the opener, the Fuel Masters succeeded in holding down June Mar Fajardo to nine points and as many rebounds, but the reigning five-time season MVP bounced back big-time with 19 and 18 in Game 2.

And then there are Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot, averaging 19 points and 17 points, respectively, in the duel thus far, not to mention Arwind Santos and Terrence Romeo, who could all hurt the Fuel Masters from the outside should the latter gang up on Fajardo.

For Phoenix to at least stay alive it must have Calvin Abueva, averaging 17 points, 15.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists but with 6.0 turnovers, keeping his focus on the game, as well as making sure Matthew Wright and Jason Perkins get their looks.

The likes of RJ Jazul, Justin Chua, JC Intal and Alex Mallari must also be consistent in chipping in.(NC)