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The Biggest Meltdowns In PBA Finals History

These teams found themselves on the wrong side of local basketball lore
by Jay P. Mercado | Apr 7, 2018
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For two consecutive games, the Magnolia Hotshots had a solid chance of defeating the San Miguel Beermen in the 2017-18 PBA Philippine Cup Finals. Both times, the Hotshots succumbed to the pressure, wilting under the klieg lights brought about by the phenomenal 42-20 performance of four-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo and the rest of the Beermen.

While only a few gave Magnolia a chance of winning the crown, they actually had a "shot" at extending the series and even taking the advantage. Surging ahead with a 23-point lead on the four-minute mark of the third quarter, they couldn't protect the lead as San Miguel slowly chipped away to send the game into double overtime, before finally pulling off a fourth-straight All-Filipino title, 108-99.

The young Hotshots will be back. They may have lost this series but they're slowly building themselves to be championship contenders of the future. In light of their unfortunate collapse, FHM lists down the five biggest meltdowns in PBA Finals history.

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5. Toyota Tamaraws (1980 Open Conference vs U/Tex Wranglers)

This five-game series didn't actually feature a dominant team, except that Toyota needed only 16 seconds to win Game 5. The Tamaraws were up by four, 94-90, with U/Tex inbounding. Practically forgetting to defend, they left import Aaron James open from the left elbow for an easy jumper, slicing the lead to half with still 11 seconds left. After a timeout, the Wranglers pressed, forcing a poor pass that led to a steal by reinforcement Glenn McDonald, who was fouled by Francis Arnaiz with two ticks left. The former 1976 NBA Finals Game 5 hero proved clutch by sinking both pressure-packed free throws, sending the game into overtime. Toyota eventually lost a won title as they capitulated to the pressure, failing to score a basket in the final minute and a half, yielding to U/Tex, 99-98.

4. Toyota Comets (1976 All-Philippine Championship vs Crispa Redmanizers)

Crispa was at the cusp of a Grand Slam, having won the first two conferences of the 1976 season. But the Redmanizers' bid was in peril when Toyota won the first two games, 100-90 and 118-117. The Floro-owned team evened the series, though, beating the Comets, 115-105 and 104-103, to set up the sudden-death game. In Game 5, Coach Baby Dalupan unleashed Atoy Co, who had a sizzling offensive performance and spelled the difference. The Fortune Cookie was given an assortment of defenders to stop him—from Jaworski, to Arnaiz, to Orly Bauzon, to Gil Cortez, and Boy Clariño, but no one succeeded. He ended the game with 39 points, winning 110-92 and giving Crispa its first Grand Slam as Toyota became the first team in league history to lose a best-of-five series after being ahead-2-0.


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3. Alaska Milkmen (1990 Third Conference vs Purefoods Hotdogs)

Purefoods just cracked its fifth Finals stint in nine conferences since taking over the Tanduay franchise in 1988. Alaska, on the other hand, was in its first appearance under Coach Tim Cone. Bong Alvarez was the hero in the first two games, beating the Hotdogs, 109-105 and 118-112, and giving the Milkmen a commanding 2-0 lead. But Mr. Excitement tore his Achilles in Game 3 and Dalupan's charges came roaring back, tying the series with back-to-back victories, 117-103 and 104-99 in overtime. The decider was a nip and tuck affair, with Alaska up 89-86 before Purefoods import Darren Queenan racked up eight consecutive points to give them the lead, 94-91. A three by Al Solis sealed the victory for the Hotdogs, 99-95, before Frankie Lim scored the final basket, hitting another three with eight seconds to go. Dalupan replicated the same feat he accomplished with Crispa in the 1976 All-Philippine Championship, while giving the franchise its very first PBA title.

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2. Shell Rimula X (1991 First Conference vs Ginebra San Miguel)

The best-of-seven series was a repeat of the series that happened the year before featuring the same protagonists—the Formula Shell Zoom Masters and the Añejo Rum 65ers. In 1990, Game 6 of the Finals had a tumultuous end when Añejo Rum walked out with 2:56 left in the second quarter, with the Chargers ahead, 62-47. The 1991 version looked like a repeat as Shell won Games 1, 3, and 4, to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Ginebra showed its never-say-die spirit in the fourth quarter, coming back from an 80-85 deficit to mount a record-breaking 32-0 run that resulted in its second win in the series. Game 6 was practically a Shell show, but Ginebra came up with several runs to tie the series, 123-119. Game 7 was a game for the ages and may still be regarded as the greatest Finals game in PBA history. With four seconds left, Robert Jaworski, Sr. inbounded from the endline to a cutting Rudy Distrito, who took a twisting, off-balance shot over the outstretched arms of Benjie Paras, scoring to give Ginebra a 104-102 lead, with a second to go. Ronnie Magsanoc's last second trey attempt was foiled by import Jervis Cole as Ginebra completed its near impossible comeback to win their third franchise title.

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1. Alaska Aces (2015-16 Philippine Cup vs San Miguel Beermen)

Fajardo got injured in their semifinal series against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and wasn't expected to suit up in the next round unless it got extended. It didn't seem like it though, as Alaska raced to a 3-0 advantage, courtesy of Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel, and Cyrus Baguio. But SMB, which defeated the same team in the 2015 Philippine and Governors' Cups, displayed their fighting hearts and relied on the hot-shooting hands of Marcio Lassiter, who exploded for 26 points, to win Game 4 in overtime, 110-104. And with The Kraken coming back in Game 5, the Beermen went back to their winning ways, defeating the Aces in overtime of Game 5, 86-73, and 100-89 in Game 6 to arrange a winner-take-all. Fajardo made up for lost time in Game 7 with 21 points and 15 rebounds, but it was Chris Ross' resolute defense and persistence that made him the Finals MVP. It was a stunning loss for Alex Compton and Alaska, becoming the first team in professional basketball history to lose a championship series while up, 3-0. San Miguel's phenomenal comeback was aptly called the "Beeracle," just one of many records that these present-day Beermen have accomplished.

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