3-on-3: San Miguel Beer vs Alaska (PBA PH Cup Finals)
MANILA, Philippines – The Beermen vs the Aces.
The two teams that made noise in the elimination round - one for its absolute dominance, the other for surprising the league with its tough-as-nails basketball - are set to lock horns in a 7-game series that has the makings of a Philippine basketball classic.
Our 3-on-3 panel looks at June Mar Fajardo and the rest of San Miguel Beer as they take on Calvin Abueva and the rest of Alaska for the PBA 2015 Philippine Cup title.
SMB has overwhelming advantage on paper, what can Alaska do to make up for the difference in talent level?
Jane Bracher: Extra effort on defense. It's just the way it is for them. Coach Alex Compton must come up with a defensive scheme that can cover all of San Miguel's threats - which are a lot. That or they can pick their poison. They can put everything into limiting June Mar Fajardo and let the shooters have their way, and hope their shots don't fall.
I won't pretend to know what a coach should do but this is all up on strategy already. How Alaska attacks this game will determine their fate, lest they just continue to fruitlessly pound San Miguel and come up short by the final buzzer.
Naveen Ganglani: What they've been doing all throughout the Philippine Cup: displaying heart, hustle, energy, and will. The Aces didn't have the depth that the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters had in their semis series, but Alaska never trailed throughout the six-game affair because they out-hustled their counterparts for the most part.
To beat an even steeper obstacle that is San Miguel, Alaska will have to work their tails off every second of every game. They need to fight for rebounds. They need to dive for loose balls. They need to hit open shots. June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos will get their numbers, but it will be critical for Alaska to ensure other guys like Alex Cabagnot, Chris Lutz, and Marcio Lassiter, don't have easy scoring opportunities all throughout the series.
Rodneil Quiteles: Alaska wasn't supposed be here. They weren't supposed to be in the Finals. Sure, the team has talent but they're not as stacked as SMB, Ginebra, or Talk 'N Text. But they are here because they fought to be here.
The Aces are in the Finals because they dove for every lose ball, boxed out for every rebound, and crowded their opponents on defense. To beat the Beermen, the Aces need to deliver that same kind of effort night in and night out.
Who are your X-factors for both teams?
For San Miguel, Fajardo is obviously the game-changer. Even when he's having a supposed off-night it's still him who provides the heroics. He is just that much harder to stop nowadays. But the X-factor is also between him and any one among the Beermen's shooters exploding.
For Alaska, it's Calvin Abueva. How he inspires the rest of his team to keep scratching, clawing, pushing, and pounding San Miguel will be huge for the Aces. Seeing your teammate relentlessly and tirelessly trying to pull down a giant, which is something you can always expect from Abueva, could just push you to take that extra step or extra swipe for the ball.
I also wouldn't discount JVee Casio. Coach Leo Austria said Alaska will not perform well without him, and it's true. Casio is silent but deadly.
For San Miguel, it's the three aforementioned names. Fajardo and Santos are reigning league MVPs for a reason, and regardless of how good Alaska's defense is, they will find ways to impact the game. But if SMB can get contributions from Cabagnot, Lutz, and Lassiter - say around 12 points a game each for the series - then the road to banner no. 20 will be much easier.
For the Beermen, I'm looking at Rico Maierhofer and Ronald Tubid.
Maeirhofer brought the energy for San Miguel when they needed it the most. If given the minutes, the lanky forward is a steady source of adrenaline and hustle.
Tubid on the other hand is one man on the San Miguel roster that can go toe-to-toe against Abueva. "The Fearless" definitely lives up to his monicker unafraid to do whatever it takes to help his team get a win.
Fearless forecast: Who takes the series, in how many games, and why?
I still think this will go to San Miguel, but not without a fight. I predict a 7-game classic where Fajardo finally adds a championship to his trophy rack, and he will finally become the MVP that led his team to the top.
As much as I love upsets and always believe in the power of any underdog to topple the alpha, it would take monumental effort for Alaska to snatch away this one from San Miguel.
San Miguel in seven games. June Mar Fajardo (who's also my pick for Finals MVP).
I truly believe this will shape up to be one of the most memorable Finals series in recent PBA history with San Miguel taking the title in 7 hard-fought games.
We are sure you have you're own take on the PBA Finals too. Let us know your thoughts on the comments below! – Rappler.com