AFTER splitting the first two games, San Miguel Beer and Meralco fight for control once again in a playoff battle now reduced to a best-of-five affair.
The Beermen were a dominant side in a lopsided 121-97 triumph in Game One but the Bolts had their lethal assault before needing to dig deep to repel an SMB rally in their 99-88 fightback victory Friday.
Both teams have laid down their cards down on the table, including the Meralco shuffle under returning head coach Norman Black.
It's turning to be a war of attrition, and each side is bent on taking Game Three for some amount of edge to enjoy.
The Beermen and the Bolts fight for the 2-1 upperhand in their 6:30 p.m. Sunday tiff at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Despite winning the last game, Black felt the bigger burden of game adjustment is on them after losing a 17-point spread and barely pulling through to equalize.
"We have to do something about our zone offense because that's how they got back in Game 2," said Black, whose team blew a huge lead but benefited from the steady plays of Toto Jose, Aaron Black and Chris Newsome to regain the upperhand towards the finish.
"We had the game under control until they went zone and we struggled so we'll work on that to try to be better."
The Beermen enjoy the luxury of playing zone with their big lineup led by dominant 6-foot-10 center June Mar Fajardo. There's also the big help being provided by vastly improved 6-foot-5 forward Rodney Brondial.
The Bolts, meanwhile, are cashing in on their improved game and high morale, especially as they're now 2-1 versus the Beermen from the elimination round.
An extra boost was Black's return that the Bolts welcomed with a swashbuckling start in Game Two.
The Bolts' concern is the Beermen's penchant to play big coming from a loss.
And Fajardo and his teammates do look forward to coming out strong Sunday.
"It's always important to take the lead from a tied series," said San Miguel coach Leo Austria. (SB)