SAN Miguel Beer reclaimed its tag as favorite in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals after frustrating TNT KaTropa, 109-97, in Game Three for a 2-1 lead on Sunday night at a packed Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen gained separation in a tight contest in the third quarter before overcoming the absence of Charles Rhodes for a crucial part of the payoff period due to foul trouble to prevail for the second straight game.
Rhodes still anchored the Beermen with 25 points and 20 boards, while Best Player of the Conference frontrunners Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross formed a lethal backcourt combination for the Beermen in front of a crowd of over 10,000 fans.
"We didn't have major adjustments. We just kept our intensity high," SMB coach Leo Austria said.
Game Four of the best-of-seven series is on Wednesday night also at the Big Dome.
Cabagnot attacked the holes in the TNT defense as he fired a game-high 28 points on top of nine rebounds, six assists, one steal, and one block, while Ross knocked down two telling catch-and-shoot triples down the stretch and ended up with 17 points, five assists, three rebounds, and four steals.
Marcio Lassiter also regained his touch as he drained two treys after missing his last 12 attempts from beyond the arc in the last three games, finishing with 16 points, seven assists, and one steal.
The backcourt production was sufficient enough that June Mar Fajardo didn’t have to do the heavy-lifting, contributing just six points on six attempts, five boards, two blocks, one assist, and one steal in 30 minutes.
Joshua Smith bounced back from a sub-par performance with 18 points, 14 boards, three assists, two blocks, and one steal in 24 minutes, while RR Garcia was one of the few bright spots for the TNT locals with 19 points and four assists.
Jayson Castro scored 17 points, but some of them were in garbage time as he also committed 10 turnovers in 30 minutes, while Roger Pogoy ended up scoreless for the second straight game even after seeing the most action among his teammates with 38 minutes.
SMB 109 – Cabagnot 28, Rhodes 25, Ross 17, Lassiter 16, Santos 10, Fajardo 6, Heruela 5, Semerad 2, Tubid 0, Espinas 0
TNT 97 – Garcia 19 Smith 18, Castro 17, Semerad 12, De Ocampo 9, Williams 8, Tautuaa 7, Reyes 7, Pogoy 0, Rosario 0
Quarterscores: 23-23, 46-47, 79-72, 109-97