Feb 10, 2024

Last Dance comes down to best-of-three waltz

WHAT had started as a one-sided affair has become a war of attrition, with Game 5 expected to be a dogfight as the PBA Commissioner's Cup title protagonists battle for the pivotal 3-2 series lead.

Magnolia and San Miguel Beer are practically back to scratch but the Hotshots now enjoy the momentum and the psychological edge on their side with their gutsy wins in Games 3 and 4 that erased the Beermen's commanding 2-0 lead.

It's now a virtual best-of-three, and the Hotshots and the Beermen are tipped to go hammer and tongs at each other in the 6:15 p.m. tiff at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

It's not hard to guess that the Hotshots will push their bid using their gung-ho style of game, pressing hard on defense and running the breaks at every opportunity.

For the Beermen, a big adjustment might be necessary especially if June Mar Fajardo is continued to be pestered by calf issues.

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The Hotshots have had their big switch that was so effective that saw them limit the Beermen 80 and 85 points in the last two games. In the first two games, San Miguel battered Magnolia, 103-95 and 109-85.

"Everybody embraced our defensive mindset, especially Tyler (Bey)," said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero. "Everything boils down to our defense. We limited them to under 90 points and that's our goal. As long as the series becomes a defensive battle, we have a chance to win games."

There's also their no-surrender attitude, feeding on the memories and thoughts of three epic wins from 0-2 down in best-of-seven series.

They're halfway through to achieving the same feat, and they're determined to advance their cause with renewed strength and vigor.

Bey, Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Ian Sangalang, Calvin Abueva, Jio Jalalon and Aris Dionisio are a fired-up rotation carving out a 96-85 win in Game 4 in a follow-up to an 88-80 triumph in Game 3.

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But the Beermen hope to have their own recovery and turnaround.

Their roles have changed with the Hotshots now the ones out to sustain their run and the Beermen looking for a shift in fortunes.

Victolero and his crew seek to seize control in this Last Dance.

Coach Jorge Gallent and his Beermen, meanwhile, are finding a way to impose themselves again and waltz back to the lead.(SB)