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What’s up with the PBA underdogs? They showed some beautiful basketball as they engineered some of the best comebacks during the PBA’ first two days of resumption.
Did semi-break give them some time to discover themselves or was it the top teams getting rusty due to the lull?
First to take down a giant after falling behind was the Terrafirma Dyip, who were winless in four games before the game.
Playing San Miguel Beer in the second game of the September 1 restart, the heavy underdogs leaned on a career game from Juami Tiongson to come back from 16 down in the fourth and upset the perennial Philippine Cup champions, 110-104, to score its first 2021 PBA Philippine Cup win.
Tiongson towed Terrafirma to reverse a seemingly insurmountable deficit by pumping 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and extra period.
The Beermen threatened to pull away after halftime by dropping a 35-19 third quarter blast to establish the big lead.
Surprisingly, the often passive Dyip managed to stay within sight and slowly chipped the lead until Aldrech Ramos and Tiongson connived to tie the game at 95, 44 seconds left.
The Dyip even almost took the win outright in regulation had they not missed a triple in the dying seconds.
Tiongson then went to score five key points in overtime put Terrafirma up four, 104-100, with a little over two minutes to give the Dyip enough breathing room.
Also surprisingly, the win was Terrafirma’s third win over the Beermen in their last five meetings and won it even without prized top picks Roosevelt Adams and Joshua Munzon.
It was even sweater that the win came at the expense of the team who end up getting their previous best player, CJ Perez, through trade that fans and pundits find overwhelmingly favorable to the Beermen.
Next to show resiliency were the Meralco Bolts in a battle of top tier teams.
While the Bolts boosted a 4-1 win-loss record before the game, they were underdogs against then unbeaten Magnolia Hotshots in the third game of the day.
The Bolts were down 13 with just two minutes left but dropped a paralyzing 15-1 run to stun Magnolia and steal second place in the standings at the expense of their fallen rival, who dropped to 4-1.
Meralco was facing the 93-80 deficit but pulled one of the best comebacks in league history as they vaporized Magnolia’s lead lockdown defense that resulted to the Hotshots into multiple turnovers and draining clutch shots on their offensive end.
Chris Newsome converted the buzzer-beating shot by freeing himself and driving in for an unmolested layup to complete the 95-94 stunner.
Newsome also sank a triple two plays earlier to inch the Bolts closer and the team subsequently forced the Hotshots to a crucial 24-second violation for the thrilling windup.
Finally, Phoenix took their turn on Thursday.
The 1-4 Super LPG Masters were taking on a 4-2 Rain or Shine with their new prized recruit Vic Manuel questionable due to dehydration.
To add to their woes, bigman Jason Perkins was riding the bench majority of the time due to foul trouble and Matthew Wright was having an off night, missing 14 straight shots before making his only field goal when it counts the most.
Phoenix trailed most of the time during the match. They were down by as much as 17 and by 15 midway through the fourth.
With things seemingly not going their way, the Fuel Masters suddenly found themselves converting successive shots in dropping a 17-0 run to retake the lead.
RR Garcia drained in two shots near the baseline to cap his big night. He finished the game with 18 points, including a contested left-corner triple to tie the game, 74-all, and a baseline jumper to hand Phoenix a 76-74 lead with 41.2 ticks remaining.
An Elasto Painters basket that knotted the score anew set up Wright’s heroics.
Notwithstanding his sloppy shooting, Phoenix still went to their gunner during the clutch and he responded by nailing a tough turnaround jumper that gave the Fuel Masters back the lead.
Wright almost wasted his game-winner after sending Beau Belga to the line with 1.6 seconds left but the mercurial center bricked his second shot that landed in Jake Pascual’s arms, who dove on the floor after getting the rebound to secure possession and burn the clock.
This might be what the PBA needs. If the lower tier teams keep this competitive spirit up, fans could be seeing themselves watching more PBA games as the league becomes more balanced and competitive.
This is despite the negative developments where lower ranked keep on staying marginalized by sending their franchise players to top tier teams through questionable trades and the exodus of key players to foreign leagues as imports.
By Armando M. Bolislis