By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup finals series between the TnT Tropang Giga and Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots hits a critical juncture with Game Four on Wednesday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Set for 6 p.m., the contest will either see currently leading TnT move a win away from being crowned champion or Magnolia leveling the series at two games apiece and seizing momentum.
The Tropang Giga tried to take the fight out of the Hotshots in Game Three and go up 3-0, but just could not complete it as Magnolia came out with more sense of urgency than the previous games and made the necessary adjustments, which they successfully executed to go away with the 106-98 victory.
TnT rookie Mikey Williams had a historic shooting night, connecting on 10 three-pointers, a new Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) finals record, on his way to a game-high 39 points.
He nearly single-handedly towed the Tropang Giga to a come-from-behind win.
Magnolia, however, had the answers in the end to preserve the victory and infuse new life in its erstwhile flickering title hopes.
Gaining some traction in the series, the Hotshots are now looking to build on the win and further propel their push.
“We’re taking it a game at a time. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve experienced it and now looking forward to coming back on Wednesday prepared and ready to play again,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero following their Game Three win.
Paul Lee finally broke through for the Hotshots last time around, finishing with 21 points, higher than his 12-point average in the first two games of the series.
“It would have been tough had we fell to 0-3. So we talked as a team and said to ourselves that we had to play the best way we can, make the adjustments on offense and defense. And we bought in to the system of Coach Chito,” said Mr. Lee in Filipino of the mindset they had.
Big man Ian Sangalang was also a catalyst for Magnolia with all-around numbers of 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
Mark Barroca and Calvin Abueva, meanwhile, added 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Keenly being eyed heading into Game Four is the availability of TnT forward Troy Rosario, who failed to finish the last game after dislocating his left pinkie following a hard fall off a whistled flagrant foul on Magnolia’s Jackson Corpuz late in the third quarter.
Mr. Rosario was taken to a medical facility for further evaluation after the incident while Mr. Corpuz was summoned by the league office on Tuesday to discuss what happened.
TnT is seeking its eighth PBA title in franchise history and first since winning the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup while Magnolia is seeking their 15th PBA title in franchise history, and seventh All-Filipino crown.
Meanwhile, the Best Player of the Conference award will be handed out prior to the start of Game Four. In the running for the plum are Magnolia’s Abueva and Sangalang, TnT’s Williams, Northport’s Robert Bolick and San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo.