MANILA, February 14, 2006
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao was cool, calm and composed in the press room shortly after Purefoods won, 103-97, in Game 3 of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) San Mig Coffee Fiesta Conference best-of-7 finals at the Cuneta Astrodome Sunday night.

Guiao’sforehead wasn?t crinkled. He was neither ruffled nor worried. In fact, Guiao looked as confident as ever.

?We’re still ahead, two games to one, and in a long series, we like our chances because of our bench,? said Guiao.

For Purefoods to capture the title, the Chunkee Giants must extend the series to at least six games because it will take three more wins to clinch. Red Bull, on the other hand, is only two wins away from closing out.

Asked to comment on Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio lifting a page from his playbook by shuffling his starting lineups, Guiao said he would be surprised if the Giants didn?t experiment more after losing the first two games in the finals.

Guiao stuck to the same starting lineup in the first three games while Gregorio used three different first-string combinations. Guiao is known to juggle his starting casts to confound scouts and keep opposing coaches guessing.

What surprised Guiao was Purefoods? concerted effort to score inside the paint in Game 3 despite Red Bull’sdecided size advantage.

?We’re used to Purefoods shooting from the outside so the switch to pounding it inside was a surprise,? said Guiao. ?But we’re not worried. Ginebra went strong against us in the semis and we took care of them. So it’sjust a matter of doing to Purefoods what we did to Ginebra. We’ll make the adjustments in Game 4.?

Guiao admitted the Bulls played listlessly in the first half of Game 3 and said it will take no less than a total effort for 48 minutes to beat Purefoods.

?James (Penny) had only six points and not a single rebound in the first half,? said Guiao. ?That just won?t do. James came back in the third period where he scored 16 points but Purefoods? lead (10 at the half) was just too big to overcome.?

Red Bull ?assassin? Lordy Tugade erupted for 14 points in the first half but went scoreless the rest of the way. It was reminiscent of his up-and-down performance in Game 1 where he hit 14 in the first quarter and didn?t score again.

?It happens to the best players so I don?t think anyone should come down hard on Lordy,? said Guiao. ?In our system, we’re supposed to find someone who can step up and fill in for a player who’sstruggling. We?ve got the bench for it. I couldn?t ask more from Lordy.?

Although Red Bull’sbench is supposed to be more explosive, the Purefoods relievers overachieved in Game 3. Gregorio’sshock troopers scored 31 points to their Red Bull counterparts? 21. Worse, the Bulls shot only 26-of-39 free throws compared to Purefoods? 20-of-23. Red Bull’s13 misses from the line were crucial because Purefoods won by only six.

Purefoods? determined effort off the boards reaped big dividends as the Giants grabbed more rebounds, 46-35. Red Bull scored heavily in transition, 23 fastbreak points to the Giants? 6, but Purefoods had more turnover points, 26-13.

If Red Bull seemed complacent in Game 3 because of its 2-0 series cushion, Purefoods played with a sense of urgency, realizing a 0-3 deficit would be next to impossible to overhaul. What buoyed Purefoods? spirits was the awareness that in the 2002 Governors Cup finals, the team recovered from a 0-2 hole to beat Alaska in seven. That brought Gregorio his first and only PBA championship. The Giants are looking to relive history and do a repeat.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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