The San Miguel Beermen were quick to book Boracay tickets for the Blackwater Elite in their crushing 115-83 win. More importantly, they assured themselves of a twice-to-beat advantage heading into the playoffs.
SMB didn’t waste any time showing why they were at the top of the standings, taking a 32-14 after the quarter. Their combination of aggressive defense and methodical offense was just too much to handle for the hapless Elite. In fact, Arizona Reid outscored them 13-8 at the 3:18 mark. The second quarter was much of the same as they took their biggest lead of the first half 57-29 with 3:18 left. As expected though, Blackwater didn’t just roll over, managing an 11-0 run to end the half thanks to the play of Reil Cervantes and Brian Heruela. Coach Leo Isaac seemingly found the right combination in the third quarter as they got the lead down to as much as 10. SMB didn’t help themselves by being careless with the ball and giving up too many fouls. They appeared to get into another unnecessary dogfight like they have all season with big leads. Reid and company would have none of it however as he saved his best for last, scoring 17 in the payoff period as SMB crushed the Elite 35-16.
Seemingly inspired from watching the NBA finals, Reid did his best LeBron James impression: 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists in the first half alone. He ended the night with 39-10-12, the first triple-double of the whole season, not just this conference. This was also his best night efficiency-wise with a TS% of 67.9 (compared to 51.1% for the conference). A 4/9 clip from the arc and 11/13 from the stripe certainly helps. He was a nightmare match-up all-game long as Blackwater did not have anyone who could guard him one-on-one. At one point he just toyed with the Elite defenders, lulling them to sleep for pull-ups or overpowering them in the post. Even Bryan Faundo, a POWER forward, was bullied all the way to the paint. They just didn’t have anyone to match up with Reid.
Looking at the four factors alone, it was evident why SMB won by 32 points. They dominated in all categories except rebounding, which we’ll get to in a bit. Offensively, they were just on point, evidenced by their 28 assists on 42 makes. They were pretty scary with their disciplined and methodical attack as there were hardly forced or wasted offensive possessions (only 11 turnovers). They simply hunted for the best shot possible. Of course, a good pass doesn’t count as an assist if the recipient can’t make a shot, something SMB was quite good at. The number of three-pointers they put up has been cringe-worthy at times especially last conference. But it helps that they shot literal fire from their hands with every three-pointer in this streak and in this game. They ended the night at 12/28 (41.9%). And that’s already taking into account Alex Cabagnot’s 0/5 day. Reid, Marcio Lassiter, and Ronald Tubid made more than enough to counter Cabagnot’s cold night. They supplemented that with a steady diet of makes inside the arc (59.2% on two-pointers, including 46 points in the paint) and trips to the line (18/28, 64.3%). Their offense just came from everywhere and Blackwater just didn’t have an answer.
Defensively, the game plan was the same as always, aggressively deny passes, run opponents off the arc, and force them to shoot over their bigs in the paint. It worked for the most part, especially in the opening period. Chris Ross was at the head of this attack. He frustrated the Elite guards and picked off passes that led to easy scoring opportunities (18-2 fast break points, 21-10 turnover points). Fajardo also got into the picture using his long arms swat away entry passes to Marcus Cousin. After the game, Coach Leo Austria mentioned how they still wanted to improve their defense. They still gave up 58 points in the paint, which is never a good number. It was in the middle quarters where they let up the pressure a bit. Heruela and Cervantes in particular took advantage of SMB’s aggressive close-outs to get to the rim. Luckily, they didn’t have enough consistent offense in the fourth quarter. SMB can’t depend on that to happen following this game.
Lastly, the rebounding was below average. This was only the third time SMB was outrebounded (50-39) this conference, even including their two losses. Blackwater’s 21-11 offensive rebounding edge got them back into the game. Aside from Cousin, the main culprits were JP Erram, Bam-bam Gamalinda, and Cervantes, who combined for 10. Coach Isaac seemingly found the right combination with those guys due to their hustle and energy.
- June Mar Fajardo’s comfort level attacking Cousin was impressive as he is usually intimidated by imports taller or bigger than he is. He didn’t show any of that. On offense, several times he used a series of pivot moves to move him out of position. On defense, he willingly banged bodies as Cousin struggled to back him down in the post. He still ended up with 25 points most of them were off jumpers or shooting over Fajardo.
- Reid wasn’t the only one spitting fire from behind the arc. Marcio Lassiter deserves special mention. His consistent play has been great to watch, especially here. He made five of his seven triples en route to 17 points. Get this, he only used up 10.2% of SMB’s possessions with an eFG% of 106.3 (!!!). He’s definitely showing why he’s in the BPC discussion.
SMB certainly took care of business in this rout. More than the result, it was how they went about it that was great. As I mentioned, they were patient and disciplined. Even when Blackwater got to as close as 10, they stuck to their gameplan and trusted the system. There was no trace of panic. Like team captain Arwind Santos said, they’re getting closer and closer to their Philippine Cup form. Playing like a team that won the championship is always a good sign. #FearTheBeer
Featured Image Credit: Mon Rubio, The Shaded Lane