The San Miguel Beermen ended their campaign on a winning note, taking care of the GlobalPort Batang Pier, 106-94. Unfortunately, due to the Barako Bull Energy’s win in the first game, San Miguel had to win by THIRTY-ONE to advance (they would have needed “just” 15 if Barako lost, which was already a tall order). Their poor start and several key losses simply made it difficult to recover, leading to their early exit. At the very least, they ended on a bit of a high note. June Mar Fajardo continued his excellent play to lead them while four other Beermen scored in double-digits.
In the first half, the Beermen’s league-worst defense went to work, allowing several easy forays to the rim. Terrence Romeo in particular dominated with 13 points, including a nasty ankle breaker on Arwind Santos. They were also losing the battle on the glass, primarily because of Derrick Caracter’s 13 boards. Fajardo’s early foul trouble didn’t help things either. They went into the half down by six, not a great start to a crucial game. They managed to correct it in the second half however as they executed much better on both ends. On offense, Fajardo, Arizona Reid, and Chris Lutz poured it on. On defense, they limited both Romeo and Caracter’s touches, forcing the GlobalPort bench to make up for the lack of scoring. After giving up 32 in the second quarter, San Miguel held them to just 17 and forced a 10-point swing to lead by four entering the fourth. They never relinquished the lead from then on. It was apparent that they didn’t have enough to get a double-digit lead, much less win by thirty-one (they won by 12 thanks to two late triples from Alex Cabagnot).
A big reason why they won this game was they went back to what made them successful in the Philippine Cup: they slowed it down and made sure to generate good looks. Since the entrance of Reid, they’ve upped the tempo a bit to try and make up for their struggles in the halfcourt and on defense. Everything clicked this time around. It’s no surprise that their second highest ORTG came off their second slowest paced game. They also registered their second and third highest TS% (55.6%) and eFG% respectively. They didn’t have a lot of assists but it wasn’t such a bad thing because their isolation plays were extremely potent, particularly in the second half when Fajardo, Reid, and Lutz went off.
Their shot selection contributed greatly to their efficient offense as well.
For much of the conference, about 33% of their shots came from beyond the arc. In this game, only 22.5% of their attempts were from that area. They also hit a very good percentage at 35.7. That played a huge part into how they relentlessly attacked the paint, especially with GlobalPort’s lack of rim protectors aside from Caracter. Their aggressiveness also showed in their 35-25 edge in freethrow attempts. Lastly, they dominated the rebounding department once again, 49-41. They helped themselves by getting more second chance opportunities (12-6 second chance points).
On the defensive end, they were adequate. I mentioned earlier how San Miguel’s league-worst was on full display in the first half. They struggled to stay in front of their man, the defensive rotations were pretty slow, and worst of all, they kept forgetting to rotate back to the paint. They cleaned that up a bit in the second half, just enough to let them pull away. They were able to limit Romeo and Caracter in particular. Romeo only scored 2 points in the whole second half. Coach Leo Austria’s tactic seemed to have worked as he never stuck to one defender for long. Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Alex Cabagnot, Ronald Tubid, Nelbert Omolon, and even Arwind Santos all had their turns. Some had better results but nonetheless, it served to make Romeo a bit more uncomfortable and forced him to be more passive. As for Caracter, it was all thanks to Fajardo. He only ended with 18 points primarily because of foul trouble from trying to defend Fajardo’s third quarter rampage. The San Miguel bigs did a good job of forcing him to shoot jumpers over them instead of giving up space in the paint, which led to just 7 of 20 field goals and 4 freethrow attempts.
The Kraken’s Rampage
For the second straight game, June Mar Fajardo found himself with two fouls in the first quarter. That would usually signal a significant drop in aggressiveness and thus, a poor game. He seemed to have adjusted however as he shrugged it off and continued to play his usual game, committing no more fouls for the rest of the game. His finest moment came in the third quarter where he exploded for 15 of their 27 points, almost all of them against Derrick Caracter. He added 8 more in the final quarter en route to his game-high 31 points (on a TS% of 68.6). He pulled out a lot of moves, including tough hand-in-your-face turnaround jumpers and even a rare hook shot. Of course, he didn’t forget his rebounding duties with 19 boards (though I still contest they forgot to include his last rebound that would’ve made it 20). He dominated the glass with splits of 25.9/22.3/24. He was also a brick wall in the paint with 4 blocks. He was simply playing inspired (maybe because of a certain someone behind the bench) and GlobalPort could do nothing to stand in his way. This may just be a taste of what’s to come when they return next conference.
With all the attention on Fajardo, the other Beermen stepped up to the plate. They weren’t as flashy but were still critical. Arizona Reid didn’t have a particularly great game but he did score most of his points when it mattered in the second half. He ended with 20 points, 5 boards, and 2 steals. Chris Lutz, who has been the forgotten man for the past few games, showed up with 11 points, most of them in the third quarter as well. He showcased his much improved midrange game and isolation defense. Chris Ross’ pesky defense on Romeo wasn’t the only noteworthy aspect of his performance as he was extremely aggressive in attacking GlobalPort’s interior defense. He had 15 points including a 7/9 clip from the charity stripe. Arwind Santos didn’t score much (9 points) but helped Fajardo out on the glass with his 11 boards. He continued to struggle from the arc but seemed to have recognized that and adjusted by taking more shots inside instead.
With the conference over with, the Beermen finally get a much-deserved break. Is their early exit disappointing? Of course it is. They’re not devoid of criticism, especially for their poor start. But we can still take some positives from their recent run of good games. For the long-term, this early break might just be even more beneficial as they gear up for a much stronger campaign in the Governor’s Cup. See you all next conference. #FearTheBeer
Featured Image Credit: Paul Ryan Tan, Sports5