Will Hotshots toot for Jericho?
In the Bible, there’s a story of how the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho for seven days with the priests blowing their horns until the walls collapsed. In Game Five of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Sunday, Jericho Cruz was indestructible as he fired 30 points, including 8-of-14 triples, to lift San Miguel Beer to a 108-98 win over Magnolia. The victory pushed the Beermen up, 3-2, in the best-of-seven duel. Now with a twice-to-beat advantage, San Miguel can wrap it up by taking Game Six tonight.
It’s been a battle of offense versus defense from the onset. In San Miguel’s three victories, the Beermen have normed 106.7 points. In Magnolia’s two triumphs, the Hotshots held San Miguel to an average of 82.5. Coach Chito Victolero isn’t concerned about how many points Magnolia puts on the board. His focus is limiting San Miguel’s output to less than 90 to give the Hotshots a chance to win.
What’s fueling San Miguel’s offense is its three-point shooting. In the Beermen’s three wins, they’ve averaged 14 three-point connections while in their two losses, it’s down to 7.5. San Miguel is a volume-shooting squad, meaning it thrives in generating extra possessions. In Game Five, San Miguel took 87 field goal attempts and Magnolia, 76. So even as the Beermen shot .414 from the floor and the Hotshots hit a higher .447, San Miguel still came out on top. It helped the Beermen that they forced 21 turnovers and grabbed more rebounds, 52-47.
From Game One to Game Four, Magnolia’s bench outscored San Miguel’s relievers. But in Game Five, the Beermen won the shootout, 44-25 with Cruz and Don Trollano combining for 40. The Martilyo Boys got the job done without Jeron Teng playing a single second. Magnolia’s downfall was when San Miguel began dropping threes, the Hotshots panicked and tried to outshoot the Beermen. Magnolia wound up taking 50 three-point shots when in Game Three, the Hotshots took only 14 and still won. Magnolia lost its composure in the heat of San Miguel’s fiery assault and that’s something the Hotshots can’t afford to do.
If Magnolia brings back the intensity in its defense, it has a chance to extend the series to