After shooting their way to a fourth straight victory, the San Miguel Beermen (4-2) look to continue the streak against sister team Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (2-3). Games between these two teams have usually been a joy to watch, particular the match-up at the center spot. Fortunately for the fans (and not so for the Beermen), Greg Slaughter is slated to make his conference debut after sitting out the first five games due to injury. With Japeth Aguilar having already returned and performed well in their match against Rain Or Shine, the Beermen will have a much harder time making it five straight.

Statistically, a new coach and injuries to their aforementioned starters had a drastic effect. They are currently the fourth worst offensive team at 98.2 points, even though they are the fifth fastest team in the league. What that tells you is that they struggle to make the most of their possessions. Compare that to the Beermen who average 108.2 points (2nd) at a pace of 93.5 (7th). Despite that, they are certain things to look out for. Ginebra doesn’t turn the ball over much (13.9 TOV% – 4th), they get to the line a lot (.281 FTR – 1st), and outrun their opponents on the break (16.2 fastbreak points – 1st). The Beermen can’t depend on hot shooting like they did against Barako Bull. They have to keep Ginebra to inefficient halfcourt sets with good defensive effort. They can’t expect Ginebra’s bottom-four rebounding to keep up either with Aguilar and Slaughter back in the fold.

In terms of individual match-ups, Orlando Johnson is the most obvious. He has simply been a beast averaging close to 40 points and 13 rebounds a contest. The Beermen will have to throw out every defender they can, give him different looks, and deny him on the catch. LA Tenorio has also been great so far, coming off a 20-11-4-3 performance. He’s been averaging 18.5 points and four threes off the bench in the last two games. For this, the Beermen have adequate defenders to throw at him with Chris Ross’ peskiness and Alex Cabagnot’s strength advantage.

As for the Beermen themselves, June Mar Fajardo will have to watch his fouls as they can’t afford him on the bench for too long. His defense against Ginebra’s bigs and penetration will be crucial. Other questions also loom despite this hot streak. Can Arwind Santos and Chris Lutz contribute? Will Coach Leo Austria trust his bench the same way he did against Barako Bull? Will their defensive intensity keep up for the whole conference? Those are just some questions that still need answering midway through the eliminations.

Although they come in with the better record, the Beermen can’t expect an easy fight. But better cohesion and chemistry from them should show over a Ginebra squad still adjusting to a new system and some lineup changes. I just have this gut feel that they’ll lead big and Ginebra will go “NSD” on them again (knock on wood). Either way, the Beermen look to have a tough task ahead of them.

TIME: 5:15 PM

Featured Image Credit: Paul Mata, Sports5