#PBA2015 Philippine Cup Finals: Will it end in Game 6?

The San Miguel Beermen finally won back-to-back games in the Philippine Cup Finals after keeping the Alaska Aces at bay in Game 5. Now SMB cam smell the title and glory is finally within reach. Will their deep roster, powered by their MVP combo of June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos, be able to end it in Game 6, or will they choke once again and allow the Aces to force Game 7?

SMB's frontcourt pairing of June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos were mosterrific in Game 5, but can they continue to hurdle The Beast and his Aces in Game 6?
The Alaska Aces recovered well from their loss in Game 4 by sticking it to San Miguel in Game 5. It was a see-saw game that had 17 lead changes and 11 ties, with Alaska putting up a lead as big as 7 points, but the Beermen just proved tougher in the end. The Aces have it in them to come back in this series — they have proven it many times this conference — but with only one loss separating them from elimination and a rejuvenated San Miguel five closing in on the title, Game 6 will be the biggest test of them all. How will coach Alex Compton and his wards respond to such a Herculean challenge?

Here are some factors that were significant in Game 5 and some things that can affect Game 6:

- SMB’s MVP frontline was at its very best in Game 5, combining for 38 points, 22 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots to lead the Beermen to the huge W. If both Fajardo and Santos can continue dominating on both ends of the floor, then it will probably be lights out for the Aces.

First 4 games combined: 29.5ppg, 22.5rpg, 3.0bpg, 48.9 FG%
Game 5: 38pts, 22rebs, 10blks, 52.2 FG%.

- Another guy who really stepped up big time was Marcio Lassiter. After underperforming in the first three games of the Finals, it seems the former Gilas gunner has finally settled into a groove. With him finding the mark, all the more SMB should be able to cop the crown.

First 3 games: 6.0ppg, 0.8apg, 1.3 triples per game.
Games 4 & 5: 13.0ppg, 3.5apg, 2.5 triples per game.

Marcio Lassiter it it up in Game 5. Can he do it again in Game 6?

- Another big factor in the Game 5 win was San Miguel’s ball distribution. They were +10 in assists compared to the Aces thanks mainly to the cracking quarterbacking of the PG duo of Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross. They didn’t score much, but they didn’t have to, since they were able to find their teammates in spots where they could do damage. Because of great ball distribution, SMB had 7 guys score 7 points or more.
SMB First 4 games: 18.8 assists per game (+2.5 average difference vs. Alaska)
SMB Game 5: 23 assists (+10 difference vs. Alaska)

Ross + Cabagnot first 4 games: 7.3 assists per game
Ross + Cabagnot Game 5: 15 assists

Both Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross had stellar playmaking in Game 5.

- Defense was also a big strength for the Beermen in Game 5. They were able to limit Alaska to just 38% FG shooting and forced 17 Alaska turnovers, which resulted in 15 turnover points for SMB. If the Beermen can retain that defensive intensity in Game 6, then their chances for closing out this series will be even higher.

- One big positive for Alaska in Game 5 was its being able to control the rebounding. Despite lacking a bit in size, Alaska was able to control the boards, 54-40. This is only the second time the Aces were able to win the rebounding battle in this series, but this was offset by their terrible FG shooting.
- If Alaska can continue winning the battle of the boards and then couple this with better offense, they should be able to extend this to a seventh game.

Games 1-4 rebounding for Alaska: 40.5 rpg, -12.0 average difference vs SMB
Games 5 rebounding for Alaska: 54 rebounds, +14 difference vs SMB

- Speaking of bad shooting, nobody on the Alaska team embodied this more than star PG JV Casio, who, for the second game in a row, missed all his FGs. Dating back to Game 4, the former Gilas floor general is now 0/10 from the field and has been held scoreless for the second straight contest. Considering how Casio has never been scoreless in a PBA game prior to Game 4, this is an amazing feat for the SMB defense and a sordid slump for the former Green Archer. Without a doubt, Alaska needs its best PG to light it up in Game 6 if they harbor any desire to force a rubber match.

Games 1-3: 12.7ppg, 2.3 triples per game, 41.2 FG%
Games 4-5: 0.0ppg, 0 triples, 0.0 FG%

No way Alaska wins if JV Casio continues giving them big fat eggs.

- One guy who carried the fight for Alaska was Cyrus Baguio, who struggled in Game 4, but recovered well to do a lot of damage in Game 5. Baguio actually helped the Aces put up a bit of a run early in the second half only to see SMB make its own counterpunch and retake the initiative. Nonetheless, seeing Baguio do well is a bright spot for Alaska, and the Aces should be able to rely on the former national team swingman to continue putting pressure on the SMB defense in Game 6.

First 4 games: 7.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 0.5 triples per game, 38.2 FG%.
Game 5: 19pts, 5rebs, 3 triples, 53.8 FG%.

Can Calvin Abueva lead Alaska to another monumental comeback in this series?

- Despite the loss, Alaska’s main man Calvin Abueva was his usual beastly self. Even amidst torrid SMB shooting, the Beast was relentless in trying to rally his team forward and stage a comeback. It all fell short, of course, but one still cannot deny Abueva’s great production. As long as he can put up beastly numbers, Alasks will always be in the hunt for a win.

Games 1-4: 17.8ppg, 10.3rpg, 2.3apg, 1.3spg, 42.0 FG%.
Game 5: 24pts, 12rebs, 3asts, 2stls, 46.7 FG%.

- Despite falling behind 1-2 in the series and going through two major meltdowns, the Beermen have recovered well to move just one win away from their first All-Filipino title since 2001. It’s a fact, however, that closing out a series is on of the hardest things a pro team has to do, and it will be a true test of San Miguel’s character if they can, indeed, clinch the crown in Game 6.

San Miguel Beer:
- Last All-Filipino title was in 2001. 
- Last PBA title was in the 2011 Govs’ Cup.
- Only two players on that 2011 Petron team remain here: Arwind Santos & Alex Cabagnot.

- On the other end, the Aces are hoping to summon the same kind of magic that enabled them to rally from huge deficits in Games 1 & 3. All conference long, Alaska has repeatedly battled back against more fancied teams, and here they are again in that same position. Can they turn the tide one final time against a superior opponent, or has their luck finally run out? Will Alaska finally go on a vacation to prepare for the next conference, or will they be able to extend this series to one more game?

Alaska Aces:
- Last All-Filipino title was in 2000.
- Last PBA title was in 2013 Commissioner’s Cup. 
- Nine players from that last title team in 2013 are still in the team.

Images are by Paul Ryan Tan & Paul Mata/Sports5.

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