As the final buzzer in Game 4 of the Finals sounded and as the balloons fell down from the rafters once more, it was the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers who hoisted the Commissioner’s Cup trophy in front of thousands of fans at the jam-packed Phil Sports Arena.
Yes, the Mixers did it. Beating a formidable TNT squad in the best-of-5 Finals, 3-1. Nobody expected them to beat the “perfect” Tropang Texters but for the 3rd straight conference, the Mixers emerged as Champs!
There’s a lot of reason to celebrate for but this has to be cut short as another conference is underway. Tomorrow, they will once again go into battle with the rest of the league to defend their Governor’s Cup championship from last year.
Defending the Crown
Tough Road Ahead
Winning their 3rd title in a row, all eyes will be on the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers. All the other 9 teams will do what it takes to stop San Mig in their quest for another championship. It is without a doubt that defending the Governor’s Cup Championship will be the toughest one yet for the Mixers.
Another thing not going into the Mixers’ favor is the fatigue factor. Since the 2013 Governor’s Cup, this Mixers squad has basically been playing “non-stop” basketball and barely have had any rest. Playing in the Finals for the last three conferences, they have been playing more games compared to the other teams and this might eventually take a toll on the players’ bodies.
|May 21||Wednesday||Barako Bull Energy Cola|
|May 25||Sunday||San Miguel Beermen|
|May 27||Tuesday||Meralco Bolts|
|May 30||Friday||Globalport Batang Pier|
|June 1||Sunday||Barangay Ginebra San Miguel|
|June 6||Friday||Alaska Aces|
|June 9||Monday||Air21 Express|
|June 13||Friday||Talk N' Text Tropang Texters|
|June 16||Monday||Rain or Shine Elasto Painters|
Aside from the tough schedule, the Mixers are faced with a major coaching adjustment coming into this conference. One of the most talked about coaching transfers right now is that of another shake-up in the SMC group. This coming Governor’s Cup, the Ginebra San Miguel squad is fielding in a new Head Coach in Jeffrey Cariaso, a long-time Asst. Coach of Tim Cone in San Mig Coffee. Joining “The Jet” in Ginebra is another vital piece in the San Mig coaching staff, Coach Olsen Racela.
This coaching change will have serious implications in San Mig’s campaign this coming Governor’s Cup. Jeffrey Cariaso is known to be the “glue guy” in this San Mig Coffee squad since joining on board with Tim Cone a few years ago. On the other hand, Olsen Racela, who just joined the team last year, has been a big part in the development of the prolific point guards of San Mig Coffee namely Mark Barroca and rookie Justin Melton.
As both coaches are already busy working with Ginebra, there is still no word yet on who will replace them on the San Mig Coffee bench. But one thing’s for sure, their presence in the Mixers’ bench will be missed by players and fellow coaches alike.
3 D’s = 3Peat
These are the 3 D’s that helped the Mixers clinch the historical 3-peat and these give them the advantage over the other teams this conference.
When it comes to offense, the Mixers have proven that the “Triangle” works for them. Although they are one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to offense (9th last conference, 94.4 points per 100 possession), they have shown the league that they can produce wins with this type of offensive system. In already their 3rd year with Tim Cone, the Mixers are already very familiar with the system and movement on offense already comes natural for them.
What makes the “Triangle” work for the Mixers is that this offense allows multiple players to be posted up throughout the course of the offense and they have the personnel to do this. Aside from their big men who are expected to post-up, their guards have already developed a decent post-game to cater to the “Triangle” as well. We all saw that in the Commisioner’s Cup Finals when Mark Barroca and PJ Simon alternately killed Jimmy Alapag in the post.
Another advantage of this offense which works in the Mixers’ favor is that it is an offense built with multiple options on the floor. This makes the Mixers harder to defend as anyone on the floor at any given night can explode and contribute well on offense. It is expected that their import will provide the points for the Mixers but when it comes to the locals, scoring can come from anywhere, may it be James Yap, PJ Simon, Joe Devance, Marc Pingris, Mark Barroca, and even Justin Melton and Ian Sangalang.
Related to the Mixers’ “Triangle” offense is their ball distribution. The “Triangle” opens up the floor for the Mixers and makes it easier for the team to issue passes and move the ball freely on offense to find the open man. Last conference, 10 players averaged at least an assist per game for the Mixers. Leading them in this category is the Coffee Prince (or King) himself, Mark Barroca (3.3 APG). The Mixers were also in the top 5 when it comes to assist (tied at 4th with GSM with 16.9 apg) and when they share the ball, good things usually happen for the Mixers.
The main weapon that San Mig Coffee is known for is their defense. Last conference, the Mixers were 1st in blocks (4.7 bpg) and 7th in steals (5.3 spg). They were 2nd in defensive efficiency at 93.2 (+6 above the league average) which makes them one of the best defensive team in the league today. Their defense is just on another level compared to the other teams and most teams in the league find it extremely hard to break it down and score against them (2nd in eFG% allowed at 43.3 percent). Their stingy and suffocating defense stifles the flow of offense of the other team causing turnovers (3rd in opp TOV% at 14.8 percent). Indeed, defense wins championships.
X-FACTOR: THE RETURN OF ALLEIN MALIKSI
Many people may already have forgotten about this kid, Allein Maliksi. After suffering yet another setback in his career with his 2nd ACL injury he sustained in last year’s Governor’s Cup, the 8th overall pick in the 2011 PBA Draft will finally be back in the hard court for the Mixers.
Before his unfortunate injury, Maliksi was an important piece in Coach Tim’s rotation. He provided the Mixers the much needed offensive firepower off the bench and his deadly outside sniping opened up more inside opportunities for the team. His injury back then was a “devastating blow” to the team as Tim Cone described it. In the elimination round of the 2013 Governor’s Cup, Maliksi averaged 11.4 points to go with 3 rebounds and 1.8 assists while playing in 22.8 minutes per game for the Mixers.
In his return to the SanMig Coffee lineup this coming conference, there will be added pressure to the former MVP of the PBA D-League to deliver and provide energy. As the rest of the Mixers are coming in tired and weary, Tim Cone is banking on Allein’s fresh legs to carry the team as his starters recover in the early moments of the conference.
THE BLACK SAKURAGI IS BACK!
Marqus Blakely is back! In his 3rd stint in the PBA, Blakely is once again suiting up for the SanMig Super Coffee Mixers and he’s back to continue this championship run he started with them back in the 2013 Governor’s Cup.
There is no need for further introduction for this man. Dubbed as “Mr. Everything”, the former Vermont University standout normed 26.1 points, 16.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 blocks per game last Governor’s Cup, enough for him to be named the Best Import of the Conference.
Aside from the all-important stats that Marqus brings to the Mixers, another major contribution he gives the team is his relentless energy both on offense and on defense. His energy combined with that of Marc Pingris’ makes San Mig tough to beat game in and game out.
The road to the grandslam begins with Barako
Although Coach Tim doesn’t want his players to think about it, talks of an impending Grandslam will surround the Mixer’s campaign this Governor’s Cup as they bagged the Philippine Cup and Commissioner’s Cup Championship this year. Tim Cone will have a chance to win his 2nd Grand Slam, a feat that no other coach has done in PBA history. This quest to complete the Grand Slam begins this Wednesday, May 21 vs the Barako Bull Energy Cola.
The Mixers are known to start slow in conferences maybe due to wear and tear, injuries to key players, or championship hangover. But they can’t afford to start slow in this short conference and for them to get that first W, here are some things they need to do:
Having less than a week of rest since winning the championship, fatigue will come into play for the Mixers. For them to have a good chance, their bench must step up and provide support to their starters. Rookies Justin Melton and Ian Sangalang are expected to play solid minutes for Coach Tim Cone. The rest of the bench players of San Mig must be ready when their number is called as Coach Tim is known to give minutes to his shock troopers early in the eliminations just like in previous conferences.
No Time for Miller Time
Miller wasn’t able to suit up in their 1st game this conference because of a sprain. But when he’s available on Wednesday, the Mixers should be ready for this guy. In the only 2 wins of Barako last conference, it was Miller who led his team to victory. Against Rain or Shine, Miller tallied solid numbers of 19 points (53.8 percent FG%), 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Their 2nd win last conference came at the expense of the Mixers wherein Miller registered a double-double of 19 points (50 percent FG%) and 10 assists to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 steals. For the Mixers to have a better chance of securing the W, they must contain Thriller Miller.
It was a “wise” decision indeed for the Barako Bull Energy Cola to field in this Governor’s Cup the second-generation import, Eric Wise. In their first game, he was instrumental in their 95-94 win against Meralco. He contributed a game-high 33 points and added 16 boards and 6 assists as well and outperformed the NBA-veteran import of Meralco, Terrence Williams. Having a decent perimeter game and an impressive post-game, Wise will be a hard import to contain. Because of this, the Mixers must devise a “wise” defensive gameplan against this prolific import of Barako.
Key Match-up: Blakely vs. Wise
It would be interesting to see how Wise performs against the defending Best Import of the Conference, Marqus Blakely. It is in this match-up where we can see what Wise is really made of as he plays against an experienced PBA import in Blakely and a disciplined defensive team like the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers.
Can the SanMig Super Coffee Mixers make history and win another championship for a grandslam this conference? I guess we’ll wait and see and let history unfold itself starting this Wednesday vs. Barako Bull.