Injury-plagued Magnolia and reigning champion San Miguel Beer will collide at 6:30 p.m. tonight for a 2-1 lead in Game 3 of the best-of-seven finals of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 43 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Despite their injury woes, Hotshots coach Chito Victolero is hoping that his wards would repeat their Game 1 feat when they stun SMB 105-103.
It would be a hard to pull off since the Hotshots are playing without veteran Jean Marc Pingris who’s nursing an anterior cruciate ligament injury and Justin Melton who hurt his hamstring. Melton still managed to play in Game 1 but skipped Game 2 and was declared out of the series.
Both Pingris and Melton were instrumental in Magnolia’s winning the grand slam title in 2014.
“They are motivated next man up,” Victolero told The Manila Times. “Since the NLEX semifinals series, Justin was already out. I think we already adjusted although it would be better if he’s playing, but we don’t have a choice my other guards need to step up and fill whatever Justin can contribute.”
Without Melton, Paul Lee, Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon need to double the same effort they exerted when their team beat Northern Luzon Expressway in six games in the best-of-seven semifinals.
But San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria said Magnolia remains a formidable foe even without Pingris and Melton.
“They beat us even without Pingris and Melton so that means they are still capable to beat any team,” said Austria, who will rely on June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter in Game 3. “We will try our best and we will slug it out with them.”
“I think it will be an exciting game and the intensity will be higher because we both came from a long break.”
Last Sunday, the Beermen bounced back from their Game 1 defeat by routing the Hotshots, 92-77, in Game 2 to level the series.