The San Miguel Beermen continue their conference as they go up against the short-handed, but still equally dangerous, Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. A team largely intact from last season, they are reinforced by a familiar name in Arizona Reid. With both teams coming off disappointing losses, they’ll be looking to bounce back quickly and avoid falling into an early 0-2 hole. So what do the Beermen have to do? We take a look.
Keys to the Game
If the Beermen want to have a good chance of winning this game, they have to repeat this in their minds: It can’t be the Reggie Williams show. With such an offensively talented lineup, he can’t be scoring half the team’s points every game. The locals have to step up and provide a better showing, whether it’s shooting, rebounding or hustling after 50-50 balls. A perfect example of lacking local production is their 3-point shooting. Although they shot well from distance in their last game at 10-of-24 (41.7 percent), if you take away Williams’ individual shots, only 3 of the locals’ 12 attempts went in, with those makes belonging to only two players. It really doesn’t matter if the import is Williams, Kevin Jones, or Elijah Millsap, the locals will make or break this game (and eventually, the conference).
Feed the Kraken
Against the Express, the Elasto Painters struggled to protect the paint against the combined frontline of Asi Taulava and import Dominique Sutton, who shot 50 and 58.8 percent, respectively, on 2-pointers. Seeing as June Mar Fajardo has had a lot of success against Rain or Shine’s collection of physical bigs the past 3 conferences, San Miguel should look to feed him early and often. The onus is on both the coaching staff and the players to get him the ball unlike in the 1st half against the Alaska Aces where Fajardo barely touched the ball and only had two shot attempts. He also has to be aggressive enough to get into good position to score or force fouls.
Hold Down the Fort
Even if San Miguel finds their offensive groove, a lot of it won’t matter if they can’t contain Rain or Shine defensively. The Elasto Painters only shot 22.7 percent from the 3-point area in their last game, so expect them to put a lot more emphasis into attacking the paint if their long bombs still don’t connect. With that and the coaching staff’s premium on ball movement, the Beermen will have to build a fort inside and defend it. Unfortunately, they don’t really have an answer for Arizona Reid inside. He will simply overpower Arwind Santos and Williams and will be too quick for Fajardo. Their best defender should be Doug Kramer but he’s not a big part of the rotation at this point.
As such, the guards will have to keep Paul Lee and Ryan Arana’s slashing in check while the bigs have to make sure that their gritty counterparts don’t out-position them. Speaking of the bigs, the Beermen must finish defensive possessions, they cannot allow the same amount of offensive rebounds and 2nd chance opportunities that they gave to Alaska. Rain or Shine will likely gang-rebound with their shorter bigs, so the San Miguel front court must be ready.
June Mar Fajardo vs. ROS Frontline
As I mentioned earlier, how Fajardo does against the entire Rain or Shine frontline will be key. With Beau Belga likely guarding him, Fajardo should look to get him into early foul trouble, forcing a more favorable match-up. Reid and Larry Rodriguez will be too small and Raymond Almazan would be too skinny. On the defensive side, Fajardo has always had trouble with quicker players or those that hang around on the perimeter. The Elasto Painters have all of those, so he will really have to dig down and not allow them to blow by him or leave them open for jump shots.
Despite a disappointing opener, Rain or Shine is still a very dangerous opponent especially with how familiar they are in battling the Beermen. This will definitely be a close game start to finish but with another brilliant performance from their import, enough local production, and a dominant Fajardo inside, San Miguel will be the victors this time around.