A SHARPSHOOTER famously known to own assassin-like skills fired blanks. And two mainstays succumbed to injuries with an eternity of basketball left to play.
With those issues facing a team in a do-or-die game, what are its chances of survival?
Bleak as in an ICU-placed patient, comatose, relying mainly on a life-support system of tubes and oxygen tanks. Without a doubt, it would expire.
That was San Miguel Beer (SMB) on Sunday. It went to a Game 7, winner-take-all battle in high spirits, only to suffer a meltdown of unimaginable magnitude.
Poised to supposedly reclaim their throne that was theirs five straight years up to 2019, the Beermen were denied—dethroned pretty badly like hapless victims of a violent coup d’ etat.
Like blood-thirsty mutineers, the Tropang Giga were armed to the teeth, firing with impeccable accuracy after seeing SMB pile a 23-15 first quarter lead on the strength of five triples by CJ Perez (two threes) and one each from Terrence Romeo, Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross.
Dropping a blistering 30-13 bomb in the second quarter, TNT courageously captured a 45-36 halftime lead, never looking back from there en route to a series-clinching, shocking 97-79 victory to advance to a race-to-four Finals against Magnolia in the Philippine Basketball Association PHL Cup.
So clinically devastating was TNT’s last three-quarter fusillade that it consistently erected double-digit leads, the biggest at 21 points, 92-71, with 3:27 left.
Not even once did SMB threaten to mount an honest-to-goodness comeback in that span, its guns silenced as though they were loaded with duds.
And take a look at this:
The Beermen’s biggest puzzle was Marcio Lassiter, for so long the team’s deadliest shooter. He fired eight times on Sunday. He missed eight times on Sunday. Zero.
Do you remember Lassiter not scoring even a single basket in his entire stay at San Miguel for a decade or so? I don’t.
And then Mo Tautuaa and Romeo.
Both superbly consistent in point-producing to help SMB forge a 3-3 deadlock, they could only combine for 11 points in the series decider, leaving the game for good in the third quarter on leg injuries suffered minus outside interference.
Only June Mar Fajardo from the vaunted SMB juggernaut delivered despite still in mourning over the death of his mother, piling up 22 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocked shots. Ross had 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in SMB’s losing cause.
RR Pogoy fired 27 points aided by four threes in the TNT victory, with Mikey Williams adding 20 and Kelly Williams making double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
But beware, TNT. SMB is Magnolia’s sister team. For sure, revenge is in the air come the Finals.
THAT’S IT Good move, Commissioner Marcial. Stick to the Pampanga bubble instead of transferring the Finals to Pasig’s Ynares Center. Why fix it when it ain’t broke?