Will Hotshots toot for Jericho?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star
Will Hotshots toot for Jericho?
Jericho Cruz (39) tied his career-high with 30 points.
PBA Images

In the Bible, theres a story of how the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho for seven days with the priests blowing their horns until the walls collapsed. In Game Five of the PBA Commissioners Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Sunday, Jericho Cruz was indestructible as he fired 30 points, including 8-of-14 triples, to lift San Miguel Beer to a 108-98 win over Magnolia. The victory pushed the Beermen up, 3-2, in the best-of-seven duel. Now with a twice-to-beat advantage, San Miguel can wrap it up by taking Game Six tonight.

Its been a battle of offense versus defense from the onset. In San Miguels three victories, the Beermen have normed 106.7 points. In Magnolias two triumphs, the Hotshots held San Miguel to an average of 82.5. Coach Chito Victolero isnt concerned about how many points Magnolia puts on the board. His focus is limiting San Miguels output to less than 90 to give the Hotshots a chance to win.

Whats fueling San Miguels offense is its three-point shooting. In the Beermens three wins, theyve averaged 14 three-point connections while in their two losses, its down to 7.5. San Miguel is a volume-shooting squad, meaning it thrives in generating extra possessions. In Game Five, San Miguel took 87 field goal attempts and Magnolia, 76. So even as the Beermen shot .414 from the floor and the Hotshots hit a higher .447, San Miguel still came out on top. It helped the Beermen that they forced 21 turnovers and grabbed more rebounds, 52-47.

From Game One to Game Four, Magnolias bench outscored San Miguels relievers. But in Game Five, the Beermen won the shootout, 44-25 with Cruz and Don Trollano combining for 40. The Martilyo Boys got the job done without Jeron Teng playing a single second. Magnolias downfall was when San Miguel began dropping threes, the Hotshots panicked and tried to outshoot the Beermen. Magnolia wound up taking 50 three-point shots when in Game Three, the Hotshots took only 14 and still won. Magnolia lost its composure in the heat of San Miguels fiery assault and thats something the Hotshots cant afford to do.

If Magnolia brings back the intensity in its defense, it has a chance to extend the series to a Game Seven. Itll start from Tyler Bey shadowing Bennie Boatwright and the rest of the Hotshots blowing their horns to bring down the walls of Jericho. In Game Five, Boatwright adjusted his offensive position and played the interior a lot more, attracting the double team and passing out to open teammates. Boatwright will likely do the same in Game Six because it gets the locals, like Cruz, more involved in puncturing the hoop. That also allows June Mar Fajardo to free himself for a drop pass from Boatwright on the weak side.

Coach Jorge Gallent is a win away from bagging his first-ever PBA championship in the saddle. Victolero will try to force a winner-take-all Game Seven on Friday. Itll be quite a firestorm tonight.

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