The Alaska Aces may still have a commanding 3-1 series lead, but no doubt the San Miguel Beermen just made this matchup helluva interesting and worth watching.
As blasphemous as it may sound, we didn't bother watching most of Game 4 of the PBA Finals.
These facts pretty much sum it all up:
1. Alaska is up by a dominating 3-0, and is looking to take out the brooms for some good ol' sweepin'.
2. No team has successfully climbed out of that kind of hole in league history.
4. Alaska has so far been exquisitely consistent on both ends of the floor, led by dark horse Finals MVP candidate Vic Manuel, who has been named best player in each of the first three games.
And that was still the case until about three minutes left in the game. Alaska was able to protect its sizeable lead (eight to 10 points) since the final quarter began, despite a stubborn SMB side.
That was until Marcio Lassiter converted a three off a Chris Ross swipe, which got the Beermen within six at the two-and-a-half-minute mark of the fourth quarter. At that point, after looking at social media updates, we were like "OMG, we have to see this."
And then Gabby Espinas happened. The former Alaska big man—one of those assigned to offset the loss of Fajardo—took advantage of a couple of stops (two offensive fouls against the Aces) and delivered from the charity stripe during that span (going three of three). He had a crucial and-1 play, which fouled out Dondon Hontiveros and had SMB breathing down Alaska's neck.
One point Alaska lead, 93-92.
The score remained the same until the final 30 seconds of the last canto, during which the two sides of Arwind Santos showed up.
Good Arwind: Criticized for chucking up ill-advised three-pointers, the former MVP followed up a missed shot and gave the Beermen its first lead since the first half, 94-93. We imagined Beermen fans rioting like this:
Bad Arwind: He would go on to miss two straight freethrows in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter after a Calvin Abueva layup. Luckily, Ronald Tubid and Ross converted their freebies in that same period.
4.5 seconds left, 98-95, SMB up by three.
Just when we thought the Beermen would finally wrap this one up, Alaska's Cyrus Baguio reintroduces himself, rising for a Hontiveros-like buzzer-beating three to force the game-extending deadlock!
As expected, Alaska came out of the extra period's gates running, with Manuel scoring the first four points and even managing to foul out Espinas, who finished with a spirited 21 points and 14 rebounds.
But it seemed that this was really SMB's night, as they went on to rally with nine straight markers, led by a pair of daredevil drives from Ross who flirted with a triple double (11 pts, 11 reb, 9 ast.). Good Arwind once again appeared, getting a critical block off another Baguio attempt during the waning moments of overtime.
Alaska, on the other hand, looked out of sorts after their strong start in the extra period, making more turnovers than points (three vs. two) after scoring four straight.
Final score: 110-102
The Beermen weren't only able to extend the series but also avoided being the first team in franchise history to be swept in the finals. Next up: Being the first team to overcome a 0-3 deficit in PBA history—especially with the possibility of June Mar playing in Game 7, according to head coach Leo Austria
The Aces may still have a commanding 3-1 series lead, but no doubt the Beermen just made this matchup helluva interesting and worth watching.
So yeah, Game 5, here we go.
Game 5 is happening this Wednesday, January 27, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
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