The hype surrounding the semifinals series between the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and the Star Hotshots in the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup is proving to be legitimate, with every match decided by an average of three points, before Ginebra's ugly Game 3 win (73-62) last Monday.
The next game, which is set tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, is as crucial as any knockout match. A victory will ensure a comfortable 3-1 lead (flashes of the Golden State Warriors) for the Hotshots, while a triumphant outcome for the Barangay ties the affair, and who knows, may set the stage for a much-awaited Manila Clasico Game 7.
Games 1, 2, and 3 have bared the strengths and weaknesses of each Finals hopeful. It's up to Star and Ginebra if they will be able to make the necessary adjustments to take this very important face-off.
Star's to-do list
Make those threes, damn it!
Despite leading the series, Star has consistently misfired from rainbow territory, hitting just 20 of their 78 three-point attempts for a shoddy 25.6%. It doesn't help that Allein Maliksi has yet to found his shooting touch that burned everyone in the latter part of elimination round. He could use some help by hitting the court early for some pre-game shooting.
Get back to forcing miscues
The Hotshots vaunted defense is showing its teeth early in the matchup, causing Ginebra to commit 16 turnovers per game. The intensity has seemed to drop off since coming up with 10 steals in Game 1 (8 and 5 for Games 2 and 3, respectively). Time to tighten those loose screws in the Star's defensive juggernaut.
No 'I' in team
Don't tell us this is the reason the Hotshots brought in Paul Lee, to carry their offensive load come playoffs. Mark Barroca has started out strong as Lee's backcourt partner, only to fizzle out in their last two outings. The Grandslam squad needs more significant contributions from its other players if they are hoping to reclaim Star's former glory.
Ginebra's to-do list
Don't waste 'em freebies
So far, Aguilar (team-leading five free throws per game) and co. have done a better job getting to the line than their Star counterparts (49 to 34). The only problem is, both teams are converting a so-so 73% clip from the charity stripe. If only Ginebra made a few more of those bunnies, they might have not found themselves in this position.
Continue to gang rebound
Pingris may have gone Dennis Rodman on Ginebra with 18 boards in Game 3, but a closer look shows a balanced effort on the glass from the Barangay—two players grabbed 12 or more (Aguilar, Ferrer), and had at least five (Devance, Thompson, Cruz). This kind of efficient rebounding keeps a single player from getting tired and keeps all bodies engaged.
Grit and grind away
Who would've thought things had to get ugly—in terms of shooting percentages, how low-scoring the affair turned out—before Ginebra could gut out a W? Six players recording a block (9 in total) is proof that the popular team is competing with a sense of urgency. Finally, the Gin Kings are starting to brandish its never-say-die attitude.