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Sports

Hotshots eye equalizer

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Hotshots eye equalizer
Magnolia import Tyler Bey jumps ahead of everybody in a rebound play during Game 3 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The Hotshots stopped the San Miguel Beermen, 88-80.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines —  By going back to its roots as topnotch shot-stopper, Magnolia has made it a more manageable 2-1 affair against San Miguel Beer.

Now the challenge for the Hotshots is to keep their defensive machine continuously humming to make it back-to-back tonight and transform the initially one-way PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals into a “50-50” series from hereon.

If they don’t, the Beermen will emerge from the 7:35 p.m. Game 4 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum standing on the hill in the race-to-four dispute on second attempt.

The Hotshots denied SMB of its third victory Wednesday night via an 88-80 verdict anchored on the trademark defensive efficiency conspicuously missing in the first two games.

“We’ve been consistent on our defense for the whole conference. Game 1 and Game 2, we allowed them to score and do what they wanted. So we brought that defensive mentality back,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.

With Tyler Bey and Mark Barroca as defensive lynchpin, the Hotshots stifled the Beermen to an output that’s 26 points short of their average in the first two matches.  From 45.3 percent, the offensive clip of Bennie Boatwright and Co. also dipped to 34.1 percent in Game 3.

“Our best offense is yung defense namin. Kapag nakaka-stop kami, nakaka-run kami ng maayos, nadadala yung opensa namin,” said Barroca.

Victolero and his troops brace for a hard strike back from the Beermen.

“We know this is a powerhouse team (SMB) and we expect they will bounce back hard,” said Victolero. “Wala pa kami na-achieve dito eh. We just won one game and we need to rest, recover, watch the film and prepare again for Game 4.”

With its Game 3 triumph, Magnolia not only ended talks of a sweep for San Miguel but also handed its sibling rival its first loss after an 11-game streak.

“That’s a good team we’re playing so we expected them to come out hard and play well in Game 3. They did that and they got the win,” said Boatwright.

The setback also halted Boatwright’s personal 9-0 record since his Christmas Day debut.

“It’s part of life. You win some, you lose some but you know, no need to over-react. We’re just going to be ready for Game 4,” he said.

Prior to Game 4, the PBA fetes the top individual performers of the season-opening conference in a short ceremony at 7:30 p.m.

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