The San Miguel Beermen survived a poor shooting night and several endgame blunders to edge the NLEX Road Warriors, 79-76. A well-balanced attack saw 5 Beermen in double figures, led by a bounce-back 22-point effort from Marcio Lassiter. After a heartbreaking loss, it was nice to see them come out with a W in a game that could have gone either way. It wasn’t the prettiest of finishes but, as they always say, a win is a win.
|FG%||3PT%||FTs(FT%)||REBS(OFF)||2CH PTS||FB PTS|
Charities and Second Chances
I think it’s safe to say San Miguel’s defense didn’t really win this for them. It was slow and lethargic for much of the day, especially in the first quarter, as they gave up too many easy looks to NLEX. The Beermen themselves shot terribly for the second straight game, including a 5/24 performance from 3. They more than made up for it however in two categories: 1) second chance opportunities and 2) trips to the freethrow line.
The huge discrepancy in offensive rebounding pretty much kept them in the game. What’s great about this is it wasn’t just a few players contributing. Practically the whole team were crashing the boards – 9 of the 12 players fielded onto the court grabbed at least one offensive rebound. Leading the way were the usuals as the MVP tandem of June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos had a combined 11 while Ronald Tubid and Bitoy Omolon contributed 8 off the bench. A great effort punctuated by this huge Santos putback:
I don’t remember the last time he did something that vicious.
This time around, San Miguel had the advantage on the foul line. Even though they had almost the same amount of fouls as NLEX (21-22), they did a good job of forcing their way into the paint and making the Road Warriors foul them in shooting situations. They almost shot themselves in the foot with some of their misses (more on that later) but did a good job nonetheless.
Run and Gun
They were also able to limit NLEX’s fast break opportunities while taking advantage of their miscues to produce a 14-5 edge in fast break points. This is primarily why they have to do a better job defending, pressuring, and harassing the opposition as they have always had the tools to be a dangerous team in the open court. That ability has been stifled somewhat due to not only poor defensive effort, but a slower, halfcourt style offense. With guys like Sol Mercado, Chris Ross, Chris Lutz, and Lassiter, they should be encouraged to force the action after missed shots or swipes. The resident MVPs also showed they weren’t slouches in that aspect as two sequences saw Fajardo throw a fullcourt outlet pass to a streaking Santos for the easy score. It only proves that good defense leads to some easy scoring opportunities.
Second Quarter Heroics
A poor first quarter was marred with slow rotations and an inability to finish defensive possessions as NLEX grabbed rebound after rebound. The second quarter looked to be much the same if not for the effort for the scoring explosion brought about by Lassiter and Tubid.
After a 0/7 night from 3, Lassiter responded in a big way with a 13-point burst, including FOUR conversions from deep (out of 7 attempts). Unfortunately, he didn’t hit another for the rest of the game but that was all San Miguel needed from him. He ended the day with a good shooting line: 22 points on 7/14 FGs, 4/9 3PTs. Tubid broke out of a slump as well as he everywhere on the court, hitting layups and being a factor in second chance points. He had 8 points and 3 offensive rebounds in that quarter alone. Effort like that is much needed for a team that relies a whole lot on their starters.
Unfortunately for him, his good game was cut short in the third quarter when Rico Villanueva’s full weight fell on his left leg during a rebounding situation. He was writhing in pain and had to be carried to the bench. According to reporters there, he looked fine after the contest. And an update was just posted by Snow Badua where he mentioned Tubid was already able to walk without pain. He will still undergo an MRI however as San Miguel doctors don’t want to take any risks. With a team already unsure of when they will get Doug Kramer and Rico Maierhofer back, him having to miss significant time will be another blow to their campaign.
Another thing I want to point out is the inconsistent play of June Mar Fajardo so far. Numbers-wise, it’s hard to argue with a line like this:
What worries me is that, aside from his awesome rebounding, his scoring and defensive effort has largely been inconsistent. At times, it fluctuates from half-to-half as well. We’ve already seen some terrible halves from him, like a 4-point, 0-rebound, 2-TO performance against Barako Bull. The eye-test shows that he’s been struggling a lot in trying to seal and/or back down his man in the post. Last season, he could simply bully his way into the paint. This time around, he’s been relying a lot more on his developing outside game. But the biggest gripe I have is his inconsistent effort on the defensive end. After a splendid defensive performance versus Alaska, where he was challenging and swallowing every attempt in the paint, he was slow-footed and lacked defensive awareness here. He was too slow to react or was caught ball-watching when he should be moving.
There may be several factors to consider: 1) it could be that leg injury he suffered in the Asian Games that he’s still recovering from 2) he lost a lot of weight in preparation for the World Cup, weight that he needs in the more physical PBA 3) possible fatigue from playing and training a year straight since FIBA Asia 2013, which definitely has an effect on his 6-10 270-pound frame.
It could be that I’m just overreacting 5 games in, but it is something to be monitored not only in this conference, but throughout the season.
End Game Blunders
Lastly, San Miguel’s endgame execution (or lack thereof) almost cost them the game. In the last minute or so, there were 2 straight possessions where they looked like they did not know what or how to run their sets. It ended up with the ball being dribbled on the perimeter and having to jack up an ill-advised 3 with the shot-clock winding down. I’m pretty sure Coach Leo Austria wouldn’t draw up those kinds of plays, so it comes down to the players simply unable to execute. The point guards have to do a better job organizing the offense. They were also lucky that their 2/6 FT shooting in the final minute didn’t cost them at all. The focus has to be there if they want to go far this season.
All in all, it was an ugly win and not the type I envisioned, but it counts as a W in the standings regardless. They get another generous 1 week break before facing off with the always challenging Barangay Ginebra. It’s not going to get any easier for the guys.
Featured Image Credit: Mon Rubio, The Shaded Lane
GIF Credit: PBA PBA PBA, Youtube.com