(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
After yielding to Ginebra in Game 3, the Beermen must now win Game 4 or the Gin Kings will seize momentum
You know what's weird? The San Miguel Beermen should have been up 3-0 by now against the undermanned Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings who have yet to have Greg Slaughter back in uniform. Despite the obvious advantage in manpower, the Beermen barely won Gane 2 and then lost Game 3. Now? They are pressured to win tonight's Game 4 of their best-of-7 semifinal series which will give them a commanding 3-1 series lead.
But why is it imperative for the Beermen to win tonight?
For starters, a win tonight will enable the Beermen to regain total control of the series on top of moving within a win away from the Finals.
If Ginebra wins tonight, the momentum will now shift towards their favor heading into Game 5 and despite being undermanned as of the moment, the Gin Kings are very much a complete team with LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and their newly-discovered gem, Prince Caperal who exploded for 26 points back in Game 2. Don't forget about the sweet shooting Jervy Cruz and reliable point guard, Sol Mercado.
With or without Greg Slaughter, Ginebra is still a dangerous team and in fact, seldom-used journeyman, Raymond Aguilar also stepped up in Slaughter's absence back in the elimination round to help beat the Beermen.
And you don't want a noisy venue that is filled with Ginebra fans for Saturday's Game 5, do you?
So what do the Beermen need to do tonight?
First things first. San Miguel must put their utmost focus back into the game and quit complaining about not getting the calls from the referees because whether you like it or not, the referees are there to watch out for fouls which they think should be called. Arwind Santos should start being aggressive on attacking the basket instead of waiting for the refs to blow their whistles. In Game 3, Santos had a horrible shooting night from the three-point line, just making one of his 6 attempts. As a team, San Miguel just shot 20% from downtown which enabled the Gin Kings to also win the rebounding battle. Focus.
The next thing that San Miguel will need to work on is their individual defense especially on key players such as Tenorio and Thompson. These two are the sparkplugs of Tim Cone. Also, it's crucial for the Beermen to also shut down the mid-range offense of Ginebra because it's one of the things that has been killing San Miguel all series long.
Last but not the least, the Beermen should go back to play as one unit and avoid playing one-on-one offense. Additionally, the help of the players from the bench of Leo Austria will be badly needed tonight because the starters cannot sustain their energy for long. Guys like Brian Heruela, Von Pessumal, and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser must pick it up what their starters have started so the starters can remain fresh in time for the 4th quarter.
One way or another, the Beermen are still heavily-favored to win this series. It's only the question of will they allow the distractions and the pressure to get into their heads and subsequently, into their game or, they will go back to what they've been doing so good: dominating the PBA Philippine Cup. Win tonight and you can wrap things up this coming Saturday. Lose and you will enter a virtual best-of-3.