Beermen eye 3-1 lead, Katropa seek equalizer


San Miguel Beer head coach Leo Austria braces for a strong performance from TNT KaTropa in Game 4, as his Beermen go for a commanding 3-1 lead in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup finals today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Winner of the last two games in the best-of-seven championship showdown, San Miguel Beer tries to make it three in a row against the beleaguered KaTropa in their 7 p.m. encounter.

Junmar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer defends against Kelly Williams of TNT during Game 3 of the best-of-seven finals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. PHOTO BY BOB DUNGO JR.

As of this writing, TNT head coach Nash Racela is sticking with injured Joshua Smith for Game 4 although the team has until Wednesday noon to inform the PBA Commissioner’s Office that they are fielding in Mike Myers as substitute in the critical Game 4.

But regardless of which import KaTropa will use, Austria is preparing for a tough encounter with TNT.

“We have to be ready for their adjustments and we don’t want our momentum to be stopped by letting them to be motivated or inspired again. We have to work hard in Game 4,” said Austria.

“It’s a must-win game for them. They will bounce back for sure because they don’t want to fall in a deep hole. So, we have to match their intensity,” added the four-time champion coach.

Alex Cabagnot, one of the leading candidates for the Best Player of the Conference (BPC) award which will be handed prior to Game 4 along with the Best Import plum, had a solid Game 3 performance with 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists to provide solid support to import Charles Rhodes.

Rhodes finished with 25 points and 20 rebounds despite playing with foul trouble in Game 3. Chris Ross, another strong BPC candidate, chipped in 17 points, while Marcio Lassiter finally broke free from a scoring slump in the series and finished with 16 markers.

Racela admitted his wards were outplayed by the Beermen in Game 3 and they can’t afford to have same trouble in Wednesday’s meet-up.

“It’s our poor execution on our part so we really need to look at that in Game 4. We have to lessen our turnovers in the next game,” said Racela, referring to their 23 errors that resulted in San Miguel’s 26 points. The Beermen committed just 12 turns in Game 3.

Racela reiterated that the team is sticking with Smith in Game 4 although there were reports that the team will make a last-minute import change and field in Myers.

Smith, the hero in TNT’s 104-102 win in Game 1, had 18 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in Game 3.

Rookie Roger Pogoy has been the missing link in KaTropa’s scheme of things as the former Far Eastern University standout was held scoreless in the last two games in the series after his career-high 27 points output in Game 1.


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