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San Miguel Beer and TNT can no longer afford to fall victim to another flat start as they slug it out one more time for a spot in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals in the deciding seventh game of their semis series Sunday, Oct. 17 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Tipoff is at 4:35 p.m. with the winner advancing to a best-of-seven title affair against Magnolia Pambansang Manok, which closed out in its semifinal duel with Meralco with a 93-85 victory.

It will be the third Game 7 meeting between the two squads, with SMB, then known as Petron, taking the first one in the 2011 Governors’ Cup Finals that denied TNT a historic Grand Slam.

TNT quickly avenged that loss in the 2011-12 Philippine Cup semifinals, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to win the series and eventually beat Powerade for the crown.

Both teams will wrap up a series that has seen the Beermen and Tropang Giga trade victories, the last four games ending in blowouts aided by hot starts by either team.

SMB prevented elimination in Game 6 with a 103-90 win behind Marcio Lassiter’s outside shooting and Mo Tautuaa inside plays in the first half.

Beermen coach Leo Austria said he is puzzled as to why the series has been a seesaw battle, which is why he’s also stressing the importance of sustaining its form with survival at stake.

“Pag natalo ka, there’s a lot of energy coming from the losing team and visible naman during the game e,” said Austria. “Because we don’t want to be down by two losses and I think that’s what happened.

“But for the fact that I know these players, when our backs are against the wall, talagang nagii-step up. Maybe because of our experience,” he added.

Austria holds a perfect 4-0 record in Game 7s as SMB coach, including one at the expense of TNT back in the 2017 Philippine Cup semifinals.

TNT counterpart Chot Reyes is 3-7 overall in Game 7s, but his experience in pressure-packed situations like Austria will also be a factor.

But Reyes will need his main weapons to be in top form in order to stop the Beermen, particularly rookie Mikey Williams and RR Pogoy who both struggled in Game 6.

Troy Rosario, Poy Erram, Jayson Castro, Ryan Reyes and Kelly Williams are also going to play important roles in the decider.

Also out to send SMB to its sixth Philippine Cup Finals appearance in seven years are June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, CJ Perez, Terrence Romeo, Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross.

Source: Manila Bulletin (