The San Miguel Beermen deny another team of their first win as they pulled away late to finish off the Barako Bull Energy. That puts them at the top of the standings with a nice 3-0 record. Leading the way was the three-headed monster of Arwind Santos, June Mar Fajardo, and Marcio Lassiter who combined for 65 points.
The game was a lot closer than the score suggests as it was a bit of an up and down affair for the Beermen as they had the lead for much of the game. Much like their first two games, they were continually fighting off several runs by Barako. The first half could be described in 4 words: great offense, bad defense. Both teams were putting up points in a hurry and both were equally unable to stop anyone on the defensive end. San Miguel relied on some good ball movement and a Santos explosion in the first quarter. The second half was much of the same. The Beermen actually built a solid double digit lead in the third quarter, only to have it dwindle down to just 2 in what appeared to be a span of 2 minutes. Luckily, they were able to stave off one last run in the final period, going on a 20-7 burst in the waning moments.
Simply put, San Miguel won this game purely on their offensive firepower as they pretty much outshot Barako. They had trouble containing Barako’s guards all game as they just kept on penetrating and getting good looks. The Beermen however made up for that through 3-pointers (9 of 20 versus 9 of 27) as well as a huge differential from the charity. In the end, that could have spelled the difference in this game as they scored 30 points on freebies while Barako only scored 12, a big 18-point advantage.
It may have been due to his recently released debut single, but Santos had himself a spectacular game as he was 9-10 from the field, 5-6 from 3, on route to his game-high 27 points. He himself went ‘bagyo’ on Barako’s defense as he was raining shots from everywhere. Mind you, all but one of his were jumpers. Heck, if not for that one miss, he might have had a record game. He also added 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block for good measure. He pretty much set the tone for the Beermen as he scored 12 quick points in the first quarter, making up for what was an abysmal half by his partner Fajardo (more on him later). He didn’t stop there as he kept hitting shots into the second half, ending in an off-balanced, buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the dying minutes that was the proverbial dagger to the Energy’s hopes of picking up their first win.
It’s still early but Coach Leo Austria appears to be the right coach for Santos as he’s looking more and more like his 2011 self. That or he’s just inspired by his debut album about to drop soon. Either way, as long as he’s putting up these kinds of performances on a consistent basis, he can make whatever album he wants.
A Tale of Two Halves
Fajardo did not have the best of starts in this game. He was a bit too passive to start the game, especially with rookie big man Papot Paredes on him. Curiously enough, he tried to be more aggressive with Mick Pennisi and Jon Dan Salvador on him. That didn’t really end well as Salvador was pretty much a brick wall in the paint. His lack of production was offset by Santos’ performance, but it was a big reason why San Miguel found themselves down by 2 at the half. His stats by then? 4 points, 1-4 FGs, 2 rebounds, 2 TOs. He turned it around quickly however as he scored 6 quick points in the first 4 minutes of the second half, maybe realizing that Paredes doesn’t have the height, heft, or experience to stop him in the paint. The Energy adjusted quickly by bringing back in Salvador but the damage had already been done as that stretch got Fajardo going for the rest of the game. He ended with 18 points (7-11 FGs, 4-7 FTs), 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks. I think the main difference was the shots he was getting. In the first half, all 4 of his attempts were from the midrange area, an area he’s trying to improve upon this season. Sometimes, you gotta go to your strengths however and the second half saw all of his attempts come from inside the paint, finding ways to get better position inside. Credit as well to his teammates for doing a better job finding him with good passes either in straight postups or lobs when his man is fronting him.
On one hand, it’s still pretty amazing how he only needs 24 minutes to reach his averages. On the other however, the Beermen can’t always survive on slow starts from him. He has to get that World Cup mindset of impacting the game instantly instead of waiting to heat up.
Marcio Lassiter finally had a breakout game this season, norming 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. He only shot 5-14 overall but more importantly, he hit 3 of his 6 attempts from distance, which is really the most important stat for him. He looked a lot less hesitant in attacking the rim this game and looked to get points a lot more.
San Miguel lost the bench scoring battle 28-60 but that’s to be expected. They were right at their average with the biggest contributors being Sol Mercado and Bitoy Omolon. Mercado had a good night putting the ball in the hoop, ending up with 12 points on 3-8 FGs and, after going 0-3 the first two games, went 6-7 on his FTs. It was nice to see him still being aggressive as he tried to anchor the second unit. Problem is that’s all he really did. Didn’t do a good job quarterbacking the offense and settling a bit too much for isolation plays. It didn’t help that Barako’s guards were routinely burning him on defense. He has to do a better job especially with 2 key bench pieces out with injury. Special mention goes to Bitoy Omolon. His statline wasn’t flashy (8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal) but he made some crucial plays in the fourth quarter, when Coach Austria went to him for defense in the endgame. He also had the best plus-minus off the bench at a +9.
There weren’t any other notables as Ronald Tubid couldn’t continue his good play from last game, only hitting 1 of his 4 3-pointers. That will be an issue for the bench if he can’t get it going. At one point in the third, Coach Austria went with all second-stringers. The effect was their double-digit lead brought down to 2. They definitely missed the services of veterans Doug Kramer (6PPG and 6RPG) and Rico Maierhofer, instead having to rely on the young guns David Semerad and Justin Chua to anchor the paint. That didn’t really end well. One thing they can do is stagger the minutes of the starters so that one or two of Fajardo, Santos, Lassiter, or Chris Lutz is in the game at all times. Lutz in particular may do a bit better with a second unit that doesn’t feature a behemoth taking so much space inside.
- We finally saw Semerad get some minutes. I liked what I saw in the limited time he got. He hustles, has a little bit of Kramer to his game, and even showed a turnaround jumper. He has to lessen the fouls though (3 fouls in about 3 minutes) but I attribute that to his lack of experience and aggressiveness.
- Barako used the press for small stretches and San Miguel’s guards struggled once again to get the ball up the court. A little curious seeing as they have a lot of ball handlers on that roster. It’s something they need to address before other team’s start picking up on it.
All in all, a pretty good victory that gives the Beermen a little momentum. The real test will be this Wednesday against the Alaska Aces however. Hopefully, this momentum can help them there.
Featured Image Credit: Jerome Ascano, SPIN.ph