The 2015 Philippines PBA Cup Final series is perfectly poised at 1-1 between the San Miguel Beermen and the Alaska Aces. The former has momentum after evening up the series in Game 2.
The Aces surprised the Beermen by snatching a thrilling opening game in overtime, following an inconsistent run to the final. But San Miguel's second-game rally owed everything to the team's superior firepower.
Players such as power forward Arwind Santos, shooting guard Chris Lutz and center June Mar Fajardo were each in dominant form. Rappler.com writer Naveen Ganglani detailed how the prolific trio took the game to Alaska:
Arwind Santos finished with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 4 rebounds, while Chris Lutz had his second consecutive impressing outing with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. June Mar Fajardo, after taking just 9 shots in game 1, took just 8 in game 2 but finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds before leaving the game in the fourth quarter due to an ailing back.
The Aces had little response, partly because key figure Calvin Abueva was stifled. Ganglani noted how the 26-year-old forward often became embroiled in physical confrontations with San Miguel players, particularly Santos.
In fact, most of Game 2 descended into an ugly series of skirmishes. Those incidents have put some players in hot water, according to the Spin.ph official Twitter account:
The Beerman's robust approach kept quiet the player who was the main danger man in Game 1. Abueva has to reassert some dominance in Game 3.
But that won't happen unless the Aces front line wins a few physical battles to give Abueva room to thrive on the floor. When he previewed this final, Enzo Flojo of The Inquirer gave the physical edge to formidable duo Farjado and Santos. The Aces must prove they can match San Miguel's strength.
But just as important will be the play of Chris Banchero, point guard JV Casio and shooting guard Dondon Hontiveros. The trio were prolific in the first game, per a Hoopnut.com report from Flojo. Yet they stayed quiet in Game 2.
Alaska needs Hontiveros to continue sacrificing himself to control the always dangerous Farjado. That's been the successful plan in two of the last three meetings, per GMA News writer Marisse Panaligan: "Alaska had managed to control the reigning Most Valuable Player twice now, curbing his production to just 10 points when the two teams met in the eliminations."
Obviously, Fajardo successfully shook his minders off in Game 2. The Aces can't let that happen again.
But it will be equally important for Banchero to regain the form that saw him shoot 16 points in Game 1, per Spin.Ph writer Richard Dy. The rookie guard needs to be a key figure if the Aces are going to have a chance of claiming the series.
However, those chances appear slim. The Beermen were obviously stunned by their slip in the first game.
But given how effective the big three of Farjado, Lutz and Santos were in Game 2, San Miguel certainly appears to have recovered. The Beermen just have too much firepower for Alaska to withstand.