After a long wait, the San Miguel Beermen are finally back in the playoffs sitting with a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. For their troubles, they get to face one of only three teams to beat them in this year’s Governor’s Cup: the gritty Meralco Bolts. That was all the way back at the start of the conference where Meralco exploded in a 106-95 overtime win led by the efforts of Andre Emmett and Gary David. They will look to do the same thing two more times. The good news for SMB? Arizona Reid was sick then while June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos looked out of sorts. That’s simply not the case now. Even though the Alaska Aces broke their eight-game winning streak, SMB still carries with them a lot of momentum. It also helps that they’ve had a week’s worth of rest. As for the Bolts, they come into the playoffs suffering from a disappointing loss to the Kia Carnival (which earned the ire of Talk ‘N Text fans). Coach N0rman Black and his boys will look to salvage what has been a disastrous conference for the MVP camp.
For SMB, their defense will have to be on point. They can’t let another explosion from their opponents. On that note, their guards will have their work cut out for them defending Emmett and David. Luckily, Chris Ross showed some promise in defending the former while Marcio Lassiter will try prevent El Granada from detonating. They’ll need his consistent play on both ends, especially after his five-point game last time out. Speaking of bouncing back, Arizona Reid will have something to prove once again after a dismal showing against Alaska: 17 points on 24 shots, including a 0/8 clip from downtown. He was also burned periodically by Romeo Travis. He’ll want to improve on those numbers. As for Meralco’s other players, it’s hard for me to see how their collection of point guards can keep up with Ross and Alex Cabagnot. It’s another matter when talking about their big men though. Even though they are relatively short, they are some of the toughest and hardest working bunch around, led by Cliff Hodge and one of the more underrated players in Reynel Hugnatan. Their versatility on that end can certainly pose problems for Fajardo, especially if they combine it with a zone. He’ll need the support of the up-and-down Santos and the rest of SMB’s frontcourt.
With SMB almost 100% healthy and playing at their most dangerous level to date, it is definitely hard to see how they lose this one despite Meralco’s grittiness. As long as they are able to keep Emmett and David in check, and Reid, Fajardo and Lassiter have their usual games, they should come out on top. No more meltdowns or chokejobs SMB. #FearTheBeer
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