The San Miguel Beermen opened the series in the best possible way, drubbing the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters en route to a blowout win, 109-86. It was a good statement after losing their elimination game more than a week ago. Stingy defense coupled with great ball movement won the game, which resulted to four Beermen in double digits. June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos led the way, scoring 23 and 21 points respectively.
The first quarter wasn’t their best start as the Texters ran rampant on the offensive end, led by Ranidel de Ocampo’s hot shooting – 11 points on four-of-four FGs in just 5 minutes. San Miguel switched to another gear in the second quarter however as they had a 22-2 run before the half, turning a 20-27 deficit into a 56-39 lead. That is a 24-point swing that Talk ‘N Text couldn’t quite recover from. They were fueled by tenacious defense in that quarter, winning it 33-9 and only allowing one singular field goal (1-of-14 total). They didn’t look back from there, building their biggest lead at 33 in the third quarter before settling for a 23-point win.
|PTS||eFG%||TS%||FB PTS||PTS IN THE PAINT|
vs. SMB in elims
vs. SMB in SF G1
As I said, we can’t talk about this contest without mentioning how San Miguel was able to plan and execute on the defensive end, especially compared to their first meeting this conference. After allowing 107 points on an insane 58.5% true shooting percentage, they forced Talk ‘N Text to just 86 on .431 TS%, even with their 47 free-throw attempts. That is a testament to how tight the defense was as that many trips to the line should bump up their shooting significantly. What the Beermen did well was to stay in front of their man, not allowing an opposing player to blow past them for a drive-and-kick to an open three-point shooter. In fact, almost every perimeter shot was challenged as they rotated a lot faster this time around, forcing shooters to try to score over Fajardo and Santos. This led to just six-of-23 shooting from distance for the Texters (majority of those six coming in the fourth quarter), which didn’t help their effective FG% of 37%. Fajardo and Santos also did a great job roaming the paint, having four of San Miguel’s six blocks and only allowing 26 points in the paint.
Chris Ross and Ronald Pascual deserve special mention as well. Ross in particular single-handedly crowded Jayson Castro, who only came up with seven points and four assists. He did a great job pressuring him in the halfcourt and not allowing him easy drives to the rim, sticking to him even on high pick-and-rolls. Pascual was a target for much of the first half as Matt Ganuelas-Rosser attacked him relentlessly. For his part, he didn’t let that bother him as he simply stayed in front of Ganuelas-Rosser and didn’t bite on any of his fakes once he got inside the paint, forcing him to pass it back out.
San Miguel dominated the rebounding department, particularly on the offensive end. They were able to grab 35.6% of their misses, leading to 16 offensive boards and 12 second chance points; to be able to grab that many while already connecting on 45.7% of their shots was huge. We also have to factor in how Talk ‘N Text only allowed opponents to grab 26.8% of their misses in the eliminations, second in the league. They recovered nicely after allowing Talk ‘N Text to have a rebounding advantage at the half. Fajardo and Santos were the usual suspects with a combined 18 boards but it was Marcio Lassiter who stole the show. He didn’t shoot much until the fourth but made up for it by grabbing eight rebounds, including four on the offensive glass. It’s always good to see him contribute in another area when his shot isn’t falling, especially with how streaky he’s been this conference.
Pretty much everything was clicking for the Beermen, evident by good shooting numbers across the board. The most significant aspect was the ball movement however as they ran like a well-oiled machine, assisting on 26 of their 37 made FGs. Eight of the 14 players had at least one assist, led by returnee Alex Cabagnot and Chris Lutz’s six and five respectively. It’s a testament to how Coach Leo Austria has been able to make players buy in to his system as players were consistently on the lookout for easy dimes to teammates. That led directly to a great shooting night as the Beermen finished on a TS% of 57.1%.
Interestingly enough, San Miguel had more turnovers (15-12) but pounced on those mistakes as they held a huge 19-5 advantage in turnover points. It’s pretty amazing since Talk ‘N Text only threw the ball away in 11.4% of their possessions but San Miguel took quick advantage of each and every miscue. That also helped fuel nine fastbreak points. This kind of play is crucial against a team that executes extremely well in the halfcourt. For a team that executes extremely well on the offensive end, the ability to punish them for every little mistake will be crucial. For their part, San Miguel only turned it over in 13.4% of their possessions, lower than their average in the eliminations. They did a good job getting back in transition and not allowing the Texters to take advantage.
Best Player of the Game: Arwind Santos
Team captain Arwind Santos was named BPoG, and with good reason, finishing with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. More importantly, he was a big part of that second quarter explosion as he scored 10 points in that stretch. He also showed some vintage moves as he hit two fade-away jumpers in the game, including an And-1 over former teammate Jay Washington. He was also a big part of the interior defense, contributing two blocks, including an in-your-face rejection on Ganuelas-Rosser. It was a great display of what of the role he has transitioned to so far, a 3&D guy who stretches the floor for Fajardo and aids him as defensive anchor. It’s one very small step to proving he can step up in big moments.
I’m convinced June Mar Fajardo should be called “The Diesel” instead of “The Kraken” as he started out pretty slow with just 8 points and 3 rebounds in the first half. He struggled particularly in the first quarter as Talk ‘N Text were able to time their double-teams and “swarms” perfectly, forcing him into tough situations where he couldn’t get a clean look to shoot or pass the ball. He did do a good job finding the open man, leading to 3 assists. He was actually one of the assist leaders by halftime. After the second quarter altercation between Santos and De Ocampo, Fajardo seemingly woke up as he scored 5 quick points in the final 2 minutes. Seeing his “kuya” almost injured probably lit a fuse as he didn’t stop there. He went on a rampage, scoring 13 points in the third quarter alone. He imposed his size on any Texter that tried to challenge him. He ended the night with a game-high 23 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks.
You can really see his maturity from last season as he is now a lot more patient in the low block. He is able to recognize when and where to attack and where the double will come from. One move in particular was when he was on the right block, saw Ganuelas-Rosser try to sneak in on his left, and drove the other way to avoid the double. His continued ability to read defenses will be crucial, especially with Coach Jong Uichico and Consultant Tab Galdwin heavily planning on how to stop him.
On the defensive end, he was a big part of why Talk ‘N Text’s small ball lineup, the same lineup that shredded San Miguel’s defense in the eliminations, did not work. Fajardo was moving a lot better, able to deny penetration as well as stick to the plethora of mobile bigs. As a result, Rob Reyes and Jay Washington only combined for 9 points on 3-of-11 shooting.
In his homecoming of sorts, Alex Cabagnot made a good account of himself, registering 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in just 23 minutes off the bench. Good numbers for a guy who only had three practices prior to the game. It gets even better when you compare it to his production with Globalport Batang Pier:
He had a lower turnover rate and better shooting efficiency in 11 less minutes. It also helps that he has a lot more options to choose from. He did use a lot of possessions but that’s okay especially if he continues to play more with the bench unit. There was a bit of familiarity as well as he had a couple of good passes to Santos. He was also able to keep up with Castro when Ross had to sit because of two early fouls. All in all, he couldn’t have had a better debut. My only issue was that the game sped up a bit when he came in. That may be due to playing in the fast paced offense of not only Globalport, but past Petron Blaze teams as well. It remains to be seen if he can keep up this kind of production for several games but for the moment, we can approach his return with cautious optimism. I know how a lot of fans feel about him but I think he deserves the same chance Santos was afforded.
- Thirteen of the 14 players Coach Austria fielded in scored. The only one who didn’t have a point was Ross, who more than made up for it with his facilitating and perimeter defense.
- One other negative for the Beermen was the amount of free throws they gave up, though almost half of those came in the last period. It might be nitpicking at this point but they have to remain focused and avoid giving them easy points.
- David Semerad and Danny Seigle figured in a bit of altercation late in the fourth. I do like Semerad’s fighting mentality but he really has to work on his fouls as he had another one-foul-per-minute night.
It was great win with everything clicking. The key now is to avoid complacency going into Game 2 on Sunday as Talk ‘N Text are sure to come out firing. They probably won’t score this easily again but they just have to make sure to stick to the game plan.