(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Red Bull played with great resolve with its back against the wall, pounding out a masterful 123-97 win over an outclassed Purefoods side to force a sudden death in their Smart PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal showdown at the Araneta Coliseum last night.

The Bulls were all business, starting with a 20-1 run, enjoying 23-point spreads right in the first half and leading by as many as 30 in a lopsided victory that kept them in the hunt for a first-ever All-Filipino crown.

Playing the Giants in a do-or-die Sunday, Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao thought they have a good chance on his players’ gung-ho attitude.

“It’s going to be about sheer determination and desire to win on Sunday. This is what we wanted in the first place, dragging them into a Game Seven,” said Guiao.

“You look at the minutes, Kerby Raymundo and James Yap are playing too hard, too long. That’s another thing why we wanted a long series. We’ll see if the long series, the pressure and hard work would wear them down. We’ll make sure to put the pressure on them,” Guiao added.

Yap and Raymundo actually finished below their norms in Game Six. Raymundo, averaging 20.2 points in the series, struggled all night, making only four.

The Giants opted to use the zone defense which proved to be their undoing as the Bulls shot 56.7 percent from the three-point area, firing a total of 17 treys – a franchise high and third all-time high in league history.

“They chose to live and die with the zone. That’s the luxury they enjoyed with the 3-2 lead. But I don’t think they’re going to do that again Sunday,” said Guiao.

The Bulls pounded the Giants’ zone defense with a torrid outside shooting that had them producing season-best outputs in a quarter and in a half – 42 points in the opening period and 66 in the first half.

Kiko Adriano had a career-high 29 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the three-point area, 7-of-10 from the two-point zone and 6-of-6 from the stripe.

Mick Pennisi contributed 23 points while six other Bulls added at least eight points each as the team put up their highest output since a 124-113 overtime victory over Alaska Milk in the Fiesta Cup last year.

“We’re short in rotation with Leo Najorda and Paolo Bugia hurting and Topex Robinson not 100 percent healthy. We just made the most out of our short rotation. We got a big lift from Kiko Adriano,” said Guiao.

“It’s all hard work,” said Adriano, a transferee from San Miguel (now Magnolia) on his splendid game.

Adriano, Pennisi, Cyrus Baguio, and Mike Hrabak fired at least two points each with the entire Red Bull team converting 58.8 percent of its three-point attempts in taking a 66-46 spread in the first half.

Curiously, the Bulls shot better from the three-point area than from the two-point zone.

The Giants struggled all night, hitting their first field-goal shot with five minutes already into the contest.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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