With the playoffs finally here and the team orders decided, the San Miguel Beermen face a very tough task ahead as they go up against a very familiar foe in the defending champions, the San Mig Coffee Mixers. Unfortunately for the Beermen, the ball didn’t bounce their way as they are at a twice-to-beat disadvantage. As such, they will have to come out firing on all cylinders if they wish to have any hope of advancing past the quarterfinals. Luckily for them, they are on a little momentum as they exorcised some demons in beating the Air21 Express in their last game. Can they carry that into the playoffs and pull off the unthinkable? We’ll find out. First, let us look at our keys to the game.
Keys to the Game
Knock ‘em Down
For the Beermen to have any success against the vaunted San Mig defense, they will have to be smart and decisive in their attack. That means starting sets a little earlier and making a concerted effort to dump the ball into June Mar Fajardo consistently. The last time they met, San Mig packed the paint and swarmed him with 3-4 defenders every time he made a move to the basket. As such, the Beermen will have to hit their outside shots, something that hasn’t been their strong suit recently.
First 4 games
Last 5 games
They had a hot start to the conference, but their 3-point makes have gone down dramatically as shown in the table above. The drop in their percentage coincided with the injury to Marcio Lassiter, their top marksman. Fortunately, he is expected to make a return in this game. Even though he won’t be 100 percent yet, he’ll definitely ease the burden on Reggie Williams, who was the only reliable shooter in his absence. That shooting will be key to spacing the floor and punishing the Mixers’ swarming defense. San Miguel did have their 2nd best shooting clip of the conference against the Mixers at 36.7 percent (11 makes). Hopefully they can replicate that here.
San Miguel will have to watch out for the shock troopers of the San Mig bench led by Mark Barroca (6.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals) and Ian Sangalang (5.9 points and 5.3 rebounds). They haven’t been shooting particularly well (both at just 40.6 percent TS%), but that doesn’t mean they can’t change the outlook of the game. As such, the Beermen off the bench will have to match that production. Fortunately, the return of Chris Ross helped rejuvenate them. Looking at the numbers tells you exactly why.
w/o Ross (4 games)
w/ Ross (5 games)
When he was out, the bench suffered in pretty much every category except rebounding. They did not hit a single 3, they barely got to the line, and the ball didn’t move as well. The only dependable player during that stretch was Rico Maierhofer and his rebounding. Of note as well is Doug Kramer who has been playing well the last couple of games as well, especially on the offensive glass.. Yes, Ross makes up pretty much half of the production but he can just do so many things not only for the bench, but for the starters as well. If they can at least match San Mig’s performance, that would go a long way in San Miguel’s attempt at an upset.
Embrace the Underdog
This is pretty much an intangible aspect to the game as it is undeniable that the Beermen will be expected to lose this series. Because of that, hey should go into this game with the same mindset they had against Air21. They have to show that physical, no-nonsense, no-backing-down mindset they had previously. Despite being one of the worst defensive teams this conference, they have been showing flashes of brilliance. It’s just a matter of bringing that out consistently. For this game, they should at the very least fight and play with a passion.
The Sparks: Chris Ross vs. Mark Barroca
Like in their previous meeting, these two will undeniably go up against each other once more since they will be coming off the bench. Not only that, but both coaches depend on their abilities to kick start their respective teams. Ross will be tasked with disrupting the triangle offense through pressure defense against Barroca. Even though he might not be physically up to it, he should also look to take him into the post and make him work on the defensive end. Whatever happens, sparks will surely fly between these two physical defenders.
If they come out with a sense of urgency, the same defensive intensity, and a smart offensive attack, they can greatly increase their chances of winning this game. It’s do-or-die for this team and this is as good a time as any for them to peak at just the right time and surprise the defending champs.