After two momentum-boosting wins against Rain or Shine and Globalport, the San Miguel Beermen will try to make it three in a row against the defending champions, STAR Hotshots. Both teams come into the game with differing circumstances. The Beermen were able to climb out of a poor start with two impressive blowout wins to an even 2-2 record, resembling their Philippine Cup form. On the other hand, the Hotshots are just 1-2 and surrounded by much intrigue; with Coach Tim Cone calling into question their effort and passion in their two close losses.
The Hotshots’ identical offensive and defensive rating of 99.3 are indicative of their average numbers in almost every category, including shooting and rebounding. Where they really struggle is turning the ball over and making threes. They are the worst in both categories – 16.7% of their possessions end in a turnover despite playing a slow pace and hit 21.7% of their three-point attempts, making just 3.3 per game. Those are two things that play really well into the Beermen’s hands, especially if they can continue to play the same type of defense that won them a championship: lock down the paint, scramble on the perimeter, and push the action when applicable. They should also be wary of the Hotshots’ locals, who haven’t really been playing up to par. Alex Mallari is surprisingly their leading local scorer at 13. If you’re the Beermen, you want to keep it that way. In fact, they might do well to let Blakely do his thing and lock down on everyone else. The last time they faced off, James Yap exploded in the clutch. That’s something they definitely want to avoid, especially with how Coach Tim Cone has been chewing on them.
As for the Beermen, they were able to arrest a poor 0-2 start thanks in large part to the play of Arizona Reid. Having recovered from stomach problems, he averaged 38.5 points on a hot 61.5 TS% in their two wins, including a 9/11 performance from deep against Globalport. His increased time playing at the power forward has definitely helped as opposing 4’s just can’t keep up with his combination of speed, shooting, and strength. He’ll find it harder to do the same against the likes of Blakely and Marc Pingris but having rediscovered his rhythm, he should be alright.
Other players to watch out for are June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, and Arwind Santos. Coming off a game where he scored just six points and attempted three shots, things haven’t gotten better for Fajardo. He reportedly missed two practices due to his left plantar fascia flaring up once more, the same injury that has hounded him since the 2014 Asian Games. This development is something to keep track of with his growing history with leg and foot issues. Lassiter, on the other hand, seemingly responded to trade rumors with one of his best games in months against Globalport. Hopefully, it wasn’t a one-time thing. As for Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos, they’ve been much maligned once more for their less than stellar performances; too many shots and dribbling from Cabagnot and the lack of production from Santos. The Beermen have arguably played better in the last two games with those two seeing less minutes. They will need to prove that isn’t true in the coming weeks.
Despite their woes, games against a veteran team like the Hotshots are always tough. However, the Beermen should come out of this with a three-game winning streak as long as they stay focused and trust their defense.
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TIME: 5:15 PM
ARENA: SMART-ARANETA COLISEUM
Featured Image Credit: Paul Ryan Tan, Sports5