PHOENIX Pulse has made sure its PBA Philippine Cup semi-finals duel with San Miguel Beer would get to at least a Game 5.
But coach Louie Alas is already looking beyond that, maintaining the tons of experience his team absorbs in its first Final Four stint should serve it in good stead for future wars.
"Sabi ko nga sa kanila, 'Iyung panalo na makukuha natin dito, big bonus iyan, not for this series (alone),'" related Alas. "'Kasi every single win na makukuha natin dala-dala natin experience for the future, for the next conferences."
Of course, it would be better if more useful lessons could be had by the Fuel Masters and they intend to do just that when they square off with the Beermen anew in Game 4 of the best-of-seven matchup Tuesday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Phoenix's hard-earned 92-90 win last Easter Sunday whittled its series deficit to 1-2 and the resulting momentum shift should prop it in its bid for a fitting follow up that will turn the tussle into a best-of-three affair.
Making Alas more upbeat is the way his charges has learned to display poise under pressure in the fourth quarter last Sunday, so unlike in its 82-92 loss in Game 2 six days before.
"Siguro, bottom line ng winning is iyung toughness," said Alas. "We just have to continue doing that. Talagang iyon ang kailangan sa amin day-in, day-out, lalo na sa series na ito. San Miguel is a super tough team. Ang importante nga lang, just hang in there. Labanan mo toughness nila.
Expect SMB to counter with its own version of grit.
"We cannot allow them to win Game 4 because that could boost their morale and cause bad consequences for us," said Beermen coach Leo Austria after Game 3.
"But of course, in a series against two good teams, anything can happen. We'll see. We just have to review and prepare hard."
The Beermen should take some positives from the loss, which saw them missing 17 of their 39 free throw tries compared to the Fuel Masters' 24-of-35 clip from the stripes.
Phoenix also dominated the boards 71-49 with its 28 offensive rebounds leading to a plus-10 advantage in second chance points.
SMB gunner Marcio Lassiter, who averaged 19 points in the series' first two games, also sat the game out, allegedly due to back spasms.
"Salamat wala si Marcio," quipped Alas.
Despite those, however, SMB still had the chance to at least tie the game inside the last 15 seconds. However, Chris Ross missed a triple try and Von Pessumal likewise misfired on his own jumper just as time expired.
More than the missed shot, Ross was harder on himself for the two fouls he committed on Matthew Wright inside the last 50 seconds that enabled the latter to can the four free throws that shattered the game's last deadlock at 86.
"I'm not even thinking about the (three-point) shot. (It's about) the two foolish fouls before that which gave them points," said Ross.
"In that situation, we gotta make 'em earn it, and I didn't. Just fouled and put 'em on the line. The shot is secondary."
Two more freebies by Wright in the final 21 seconds gave the Fuel Masters a 92-88 separation and capped his 18-point performance in just a little over 19 minutes, which Alas said almost didn't materialize since the sniper was suffering from a mild case of bronchitis.
"Si Matt p'wede ko na ring di gamitin kanina, pero gusto niya talagang maglaro. Na-foul trouble pa kaya siguro mga 20 minutes lang naglaro," related Alas.
"Pero good thing na rin iyon para sa mga future games namin, kasi si coach Leo kanina ang dami rin niyang ginamit, eh. 'Yung ginawa niya kanina is really in preparation for the game on Tuesday." (NC)