#PBA2015 Philippine Cup Finals Game 4 Primer: BOUNCE BACK OR TAKE COMMAND?

How does a team bounce back from a dramatic meltdown in Game 3 of the Philippine Cup Finals? How does a team that dominated the elims and semifinals recover from the shock of losing a 21-point second half lead and falling for the third time in four games against the same foe? These are the questions the San Miguel Beermen are going to answer in Game 4 of this series. After seemingly having Game 3 in hand, SMB played terrible basketball in the fourth quarter, and they now find themselves two losses away from surrendering the Philippine Cup to the Alaska Aces.

And, wow, how about those Aces? They seem to have inherited the never-say-die spirit of SMB’s sister team, Barangay Ginebra. After being down by more than twenty points in Games 1 & 3, the Aces have shown unparalleled resolve, decimating those deficits and pulling the rug from under the bigger and deeper Beermen to have an impressive 2-1 series lead. Will coach Alex Compton’s wards take full command of the series with a win in Game 4, or will they let SMB recover and square it again at 1-all?

Image from PBA.Inquirer.net.

Here are some key things from Game 3 and important factors that can affect Game 4:

- Sonny Thoss was named one of the best players of Game 3, and it was well-deserved as The Boss stepped up big time. His numbers won’t jump out at you, but his efficiency on offence and his toughness on defines really provided a big lift for Alaska. After putting up 16 points in the loss in Game 2, Thoss scored in double-figures again but this time helped Alaska bounce back with a win.

Conference stats: 8.7ppg, 42.0 FG%
Last 2 games: 13.0ppg, 54.1 FG%

Both Sonny Thoss and Ping Exciminiano stepped up big time in Game 3. Can they do it again in Game 4?

- JV Casio has been playing really well in these Finals. He has been a little inconsistent this season, but it seems he has regained his form and, so far, he’s been quite effective for the Aces. If Casio can continue playing well, then the Aces might just close this one out soon.

Conference stats: 10.1ppg, 35.0 3pt%, 1.6 triples per game
Finals stats: 12.7ppg, 41.2 3pt%, 2.3 triples per game

- Once again, Calvin Abueva showed everyone why he’s called Pampanga’s Beast and why he is making a good case to be BPC this conference. After being limited to just 11 points and 3/10 shooting in the second game, Abueva bounced back with aplomb in Game 3, leading Alaska in its furious rally in the fourth quarter. If nobody from SMB can stop Abueva, he’ll definitely continue to be the main difference-maker in this series.

Game 2: 11pts, 9rebs, 2asts, 3/10 FGs
Game 3: 16pts, 15rebs, lasts, 7/13 FGs

- Another guy who stepped up big time was reserve guard Ping Exciminiano. Exciminiano is known mostly as an energy guy and a spark off the bench for Alaska, and he played the role to the maximum in Game 3. He gave the Aces a big lift in the second half, helping them rally from the huge 21-point hole. He’s a big reason the ALA bench outscored the SMB reserves, 34-28.

Conference stats: 2.8ppg, 0.8apg, 53.1 FG%
Game 3: 8pts, 3asts, 3/3 FGs in just 16 minutes

- Arwind Santos dropped a wicked double-double on Alaska, but it was still not enough for the Beermen to win. This was Santos’s third double-double in the last four games, and was his sixth overall this season. It was admirable for him to continue playing hard despite the physical play, but he’ll definitely need a bit more support if the Beermen are to win.

Games 1 & 2: 17.0ppg, 8.0rpg
Game 3: 20pts, 11rebs 

- Santos’s frontline partner, however, didn’t fare too well. - Despite already the third game of the series, Fajardo continued to struggle. Despite his advantage in size, he has still failed to really constantly dominate the smaller Aces.

Before Finals: 19.2ppg, 12.5rpg, 2.1bpg, 56.8 FG% (12.7 FGA per game)
Finals stats: 14.0ppg, 12.7rpg, 1.7bpg, 51.9 FG% (9.0 FGA per game)

June Mar Fajardo has yet to have a superbly dominant game in the Finals.

- Another guy whose production has certainly dropped off is Alex Cabagnot. He played really well in the semifinals against TNT, but he has been really struggling so far against Alaska. Despite his talent and experience, Cabagnot has not been able to really put any kind of stamp on this series just yet. SMB will need him stop be steady and solid if they are to bounce back from the Game 3 loss.

Semis stats: 14.8ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.8 triples per game, 48.7 FG%
Finals stats: 6.7ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.3 triples per game, 30.4 FG%

Where has Alex Cabagnot's production been?

- Another guy who sort of disappeared in Game 3 was Chris Lutz, who, up till Game 3, was producing at a high level in the Finals. SMB sorely missed his outside shooting, slashing, and playmaking in Game 3.

Games 1 & 2: 22.0ppg, 7.0rpg, 4.5apg, 2.0 triples per game
Game 3: 3pts, 5rebs, 3asts, 0 threes

- With this win, the Aces have really justified the notion that they are the new never-say-die team of the PBA. This was not the first time they rallied from significant deficits this season and in the Playoffs, and they simply continue to impress, showing poise and resiliency despite falling behind by double-digits. 

Nov. 28 - comeback win vs NLEX after being down by as big as 15pts in the 3QTR
Dec. 18 - comeback win vs ROS in the semifinals (Game 1) after being down by as big as 17pts
Dec. 27 - comeback win vs ROS in the semifinals (Game 5) after being down by as big as 19pts
Jan. 7 - comeback OT win vs SMB in the Finals (Game 1) after being down by as big as 22pts.

The Aces just have no quit in them.

- This was the second time SMB erected a 20+ point lead vs Alaska in the Finals, and, unfortunately for them, this was also the second time they completely lost it and surrendered the game. It was a more depressing meltdown mainly because they put up the 21-point bulge in the third period only to see Alaska chip away at the deficit in the fourth. SMB’s FG% went down drastically in the fourth quarter and they just couldn’t regain their rhythm after Alaska made its run. The big question here is are the Beermen mentally tough enough to bounce back from such a jarring setback?

FG shooting first three periods: 23/59 = 38.9%
FG shooting 4QTR: 1/15 = 6.7%

June Mar Fajardo: “Nakakalungkot lang, nakaka-frustate rin. Sayang lang. Nakipagsabayan kasi kami sa game nila eh. Dapat relax na lang kami nun. Binabagalan na lang dapat namin yung game kasi lamang na kami ng malaki.” (quote c/o Rey Joble/InterAKTV)

Unless otherwise specified, all images are by Pranz Kaeno Billones/Sports5.

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