Stop the rise
The narrative lends itself perfectly to Phoenix Pulse. It is, after all Easter Sunday, a day that celebrates The Resurrection. Plus, the Fuel Masters’ namesake is a mythical bird that rises from the ashes of a funeral pyre to live a renewed life.
But the San Miguel Beermen have no time to comb through literary narratives. Their main concern, as they reach for the dagger in their semifinal duel with Phoenix in the PBA Philippine Cup, is to suck all hope from their foes.
History, once on their side, has provided them that lesson.
“I remember that series with Alaska,” veteran forward Arwind Santos in Filipino.
That series remains the mother of all basketball resurrections. The Aces had dug a 0-3 hole for the Beermen in the 2016 Philippine Cup Finals. And San Miguel became the first basketball team in history to crawl out of such a deficit to win a seven-game series.
“We don’t want that happening to us. As much as possible we want to keep doing what we’ve been doing right,” Santos added.
Especially against a Phoenix squad that hopes to add another layer of character to its developing hoop personality.
“Toughness,” coach Louie Alas told the Inquirer when asked what he wants his team to sport as they take on San Miguel Beer anew in Game 3 of their race-to-four series at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“[We aim] to be tougher than our toughest,” he added.
The Beermen expect nothing less from the Fuel Masters, who are hoping to battle out of a 0-2 hole with a cutthroat approach on defense that has managed to stymie the four-time all-Filipino champions—just not long enough to make it to the finish. In Game 2, the Beermen shredded that defense in the last four minutes for a 92-82 victory.
“It’s practically a do-or-die game for [Phoenix],” said San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria. “They know it would be hard to come back if they go down 0-3.”
And that’s why Phoenix’s blue-collar defense has to go wire-to-wire in Game 3. The Fuel Masters have faced accusations of dirty play all over social media, but Alas was quick to deny such branding of their defense.
“Physical? Yes. But dirty? I don’t think so,” Alas said. “We will play by the PBA rules defensively and offensively.”
The Phoenix big men, led by Justin Chua and Dave Marcelo, will again bear the brunt of that defense as they try to limit Fajardo, the reigning five-time MVP who has drawn the most attention among the Beermen.
That ploy means San Miguel will keep shooters like Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, Terrence Romeo and even seasonal gunner Chris Ross stationed on high alert.