Basketball is at times a game of runs, and while the “how much” more often than not defines these runs, the “when” dictates the impact of these scoring spurts.
The Magnolia Hotshots had at least two scoring runs of note, with each occurring in the opening and closing quarters. Taking a page out of the TNT Tropang Giga’s book, the Hotshots began the game on a 7-0 run that eventually disappeared after the Tropang Giga went on a run of their own to keep things close.
From there, Magnolia couldn’t create any separation, as their deliberate approach in the halfcourt made it a grind-it-out, physical affair. They didn’t break away until the fourth quarter after a 13-0 run that eventually led them to a 106-98 win that cut the series deficit to 2-1.
Magnolia managed to survive the 39-point performance of Mikey Williams, who also knocked down 10 3-pointers despite facing a bevy of Hotshots defenders. Williams was perhaps the lone bright spot in what was a tough night for TNT, as they also lost Troy Rosario, who suffered a dislocated left pinkie and took a hard fall with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
It was an inside-outside effort that also helped propel Magnolia to their first win in this series, as Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang led the Hotshots with 21 and 20 points, respectively. Mark Barroca and Calvin Abueva added 16 and 14 points, respectively, but it was the early efforts of Jio Jalalon, who finished with 11 points and ignited the 7-0 first-quarter run, that helped give Magnolia the start they needed.
Being deliberate in their approach also helped the Hotshots negate the size and talent advantages that the Tropang Giga carried with them. Finding mismatches and moving the defense around led to open baskets and fouls that at times resulted in free throws. Fouls aside, the series has only gotten more physical with each passing game and that could play into the Hotshots’ favor.
The mantra for Magnolia moving forward should be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It seems they’ve found a working formula for their offense and defense. Putting different looks on Mikey Williams obviously didn’t limit his scoring prowess (and may not do much for this series), but it seemed to have its merits on his ability to create plays for his teammates. Williams, who finished Game 3 with a series-low two assists, can drive and kick all he wants and as long as the Hotshots are prepared for his passes, it will only extend plays.
Magnolia has also been successful in forcing the referees to call fouls that have frustrated TNT. After Game 3, the Tropang Giga have so far committed 109 fouls to the Hotshots’ 82. That has led to a 101-69 free throw disparity in favor of Magnolia. Abueva, Barroca, Jalalon, Lee, and Sangalang have all been able to draw fouls in their own way. Lee breaking out of his struggle was huge, and him breaking down the defense was a welcome sight for the rest of his teammates, who also got into the scoring.
Troy Rosario’s availability will definitely impact this series moving forward. Kelly Williams, JP Erram, and Dave Marcelo will now take on bigger roles, and the issue now will be more of versatility rather than depth. Glenn Khobuntin will also be called on for more frontcourt minutes and may take on Abueva and at times even Sangalang.
Clearly 3-point shooting alone won’t do any favors to TNT as they lost despite Mikey Williams outshooting the Hotshots 10-5. The Tropang Giga can actually give Magnolia a taste of their own medicine by giving them foul trouble. The Hotshots had 29 free throw attempts in Game 3 to TNT’s 27, but a few of Magnolia’s attempts can be charged to the late-game fouling as the Tropang Giga attempted a comeback.
A great start helped the Magnolia Hotshots earn the win today and it will certainly be something they’ll need if they want to tie and take control of the series. Looking at the bigger picture, the TNT Tropang Giga continue to be in control of this series, but there are some cracks that could allow the Hotshots to even things up. In what has emerged as a war of attrition, sustaining momentum has been the general barometer for the winner of each game and Game 4 is now the swing game towards either a virtual-best-of-three series or a season on the brink.