Do or die for TNT, SMB

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

Winner meets Magnolia in finals

MANILA, Philippines — It’s the day of reckoning for TNT and San Miguel Beer, two high-powered combatants who couldn’t establish full control of their back-and-forth semifinal showdown.

After splitting the series evenly through six games, the Tropang Giga and the Beermen have one final crack at winning this tough matchup today and ultimately moving forward to the 46th PBA Philippine Cup Last Dance against Magnolia.

“It’s going to be war out there,” SMB rifleman Marcio Lassiter said of what lies ahead in the 4:35 p.m. Game 7 at the Don Honorio Ventura State U Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

The Beermen, who strung up a record five consecutive All-Filipino titles before relinquishing the throne last year, are banking on their experience in pressure-packed, high-stakes situations like these.

But the promising Tropang Giga, who took runner-up honors in 2020 and made an upgrade under multi-titled coach Chot Reyes in the pre-season, have already showcased their ability to rise to the occasion.

“Obviously, we’re the underdogs. We know how strong the opponent is and how tough this game will be. But we are blessed to be in this position,” said Reyes, whose troops look to make the most of their second chance to nail that clinching fourth win after falling short in Game 6.

“It will be a very tight game from start to finish because everything’s at stake here,” said SMB counterpart Leo Austria. “It’s been a seesaw series. But now it’s a matter of who wants to win this rubbermatch more.”

This marquee duel has seen an interesting pattern with TNT and SMB alternating wins and losses. The Tropang Giga won Games 1, 3 and 5 while the Beermen took Games 2, 4 and 6.

Reyes and his crew want to keep this trend to return to the best-of-seven finale. Austria and his gang want to break it to set a third title duel in four years with Magnolia, which advanced after finishing off Meralco last Friday, 93-85.

“Both teams don’t want to lose two games in a row. Kasi kapag natatalo ka, there’s a lot of energy coming from the losing team (next game),” said Austria.

“I think that’s what’s happening. But I trust my players. When our backs are against the wall, nag-i-step-up sila, maybe because of our experience.”

Under Austria, the Beermen are unbeaten in four Game 7 outings, including the five-peat clincher in the 2019 Philippine Cup versus the Hotshots.



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