EMOTIONS are expected to run high as San Miguel Beer shoots for a commanding 3-0 lead over Talk `N Text when the rival teams tangle anew for Game Three of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Both the Beermen and Tropang Texters enter the 7 p.m. encounter with the word war between top officials of both franchises over issue on officiating yet to simmer down.
Behind Alex Cabagnot, San Miguel repeated over Talk `N Text, 87-81, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series in a Game Two win where Tropang Texters mentor Jong Uichico slammed the way the officiating went against his team.
The comment by Uichico led to an ugly exchange of words between San Miguel Beer board of governor Robert Non and Talk `N Text counterpart Ricky Vargas.
The incident only heightened the tension between the two teams which engaged in a lot of physical plays during Sunday’s game at the Mall of Asia Arena.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria said the Beermen are ready whatever the Tropang Texters will bring to the table.
“Again, it (making it 3-0) will be difficult that is why we have to play consistent, especially on defense and yung physicality, expected na iyan kahit na pini-pisikal din nila si June Mar (Fajardo), eh hindi naman siya bumabawi,” said Austria.
San Miguel’s new ‘Big Three’ of Fajardo, Arwind Santos, and Alex Cabagnot has no doubt been a big pain in the neck of Uichico and the Tropang Texters.
Fajardo, acknowledged as the league’s most dominant big man today, is averaging 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 block shots in the series, while Santos has numbers of 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.
For his part, the shifty Cabagnot is submitting all-around numbers of 17.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in the race-to-four-wins series.
Talk ‘N Text veteran playmaker Jimmy Alapag admitted Talk N Text had all the opportunities to win Game 2 and tie the series, but its inability to shoot free throws and some crucial turnovers committed late in the game eventually resulted to the Tropang Texters staring at an 0-2 deficit.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a race-to-four, Tuesday is a must-win game for us. And that’s where our focus is,” he said.
“I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity to win but it’s the semis, so you have to be sharp, and really, those free throws will come back to haunt you because things like that and a couple of turnovers here and there, but we fell short.”
Talk ‘N Text, which averages 72.1 percent from the foul line this season, uncharacteristically missed 12 of its 24 free throw attempts in Game 2.
In contrast, San Miguel converted 25 of its 28 attempts from the foul line, including a perfect 11-of-11 from Fajardo.
Historically, Talk ‘N Text is not new in this situation, having bounced back from a similar 0-2 deficit when it defeated Alaska in seven games to win the Philippine Cup title in the 2008-09 season.
Even Uichico already owns a piece of playoff history after steering Barangay Ginebra from an 0-2 hole to beat San Miguel in six games en route to bagging the 2006-07 Philippine Cup championship.