The San Miguel Beermen survive a heart attack-inducing game against the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, 87-81, to grab a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven semifinal series. Despite their two MVPs struggling for much of the contest, the rest of the team still found a way as they ground it out in what was a physical, defensive affair.n Alex Cabagnot had another great performance off the bench as he top-scored with 21 points. Meanwhile, the struggling MVPs in June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos still managed to contribute a combined 25 points, 19 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Contrary to Game 1, they started out blistering hot as Cabagnot, Santos, and Ronald Pascual made it a three-point party, knocking down 7 of their 11 attempts from deep. They even managed to build an 11-point lead, 30-19, early in the second quarter. From then on however, San Miguel went on a drought as their inside attack was effectively neutralized due to Fajardo’s struggles. Talk ‘N Text outscored them 21-11 to chop the lead to one. They seemed to be in complete control until San Miguel’s guards started making a run late in the third. That was enough to keep them afloat as Fajardo finally took over down the stretch, hitting crucial freethrows to ice the game.
|2PT%||3PT%||TS%||OREB%||2CH PTS||TOV%||TO PTS||PTS IN THE PAINT|
This game was a bit of a weird one as both teams evidently switched gameplans. San Miguel was kept afloat by their hot start from deep in the first half, enabling them to weather some mid-game droughts. For the second time in a row, they were also able to take advantage of mistakes as they scored 13 points off of Talk ‘N Texts 13 turnovers. Talk ‘N Text for their part held the advantage in the inside with a higher 2PT% and more points in the paint. They also held a huge 15-point advantage in second chance points, which is inexcusable for a team like San Miguel. They should be able to at least control the glass. Matt Ganuelas-Rosser has been a bit problematic in that department as he had five offensive boards. His length and athleticism has been a bit of a struggle to match with San Miguel’s relatively smaller wingman. He is one player they have to watch out for in the next games.
A Tale of Two Halves
So if San Miguel was getting beat in their own game, how exactly did they pull this off? The answer lies in how they adjusted in the second half. Here’s a breakdown of the shooting in both halves:
|2PT||3PT||PTS IN THE PAINT|
|2PT||3PT||PTS IN THE PAINT|
Simply put, they did a complete 180. In the first half, they only shot a paltry 26.1% on two-pointers, resulting in just six points in the paint. Their defense wasn’t any better as they allowed Talk ‘N Text to shoot a shocking 71.4% inside the arc along with 26 interior points. So not only did they struggle to score inside, they couldn’t stop the Texters’ incursions inside either, resulting in that ugly 20-point deficit in interior points. It was their 50% clip from deep that barely kept them in the lead. The second half was a completely different story as they found success in getting to the paint, primarily due to great guard-play and fast breaks as majority of their turnover points came in the third quarter. On the other end, they forced Talk ‘N Text back to the outside, limiting them to just 8 points in the paint. They did make the Beermen pay with 36.8% three-point shooting but San Miguel forced enough misses in the fourth quarter when it mattered. That pretty much spelled the difference as the Beermen adjusted, went back to their identity as an inside-scoring, defensive team and forced the Texters to live and die by the three.
One last category that has to be talked about is the freethrow accuracy. For the second straight game, San Miguel shot a better percentage. They hit 25 of their 28 attempts for an impressive 89.3% as opposed to Talk ‘N Text who, after missing 15 freethrows in game 1, missed 12 of their 24 attempts. Those misses were a huge reason why they lost the game. That now puts the Beermen at 83.6% and the Texters at 63.4% so far in the series. That is a suprising development considering that the latter was number one (73.4%) after the elimination round while the former was fourth (68.6%). San Miguel has been doing a great job not only generating trips to the line but hitting them at a high clip as well. On the other end, they’ve been able to employ some weird FT line difference that’s worked heavily in their favor.
June Mar Fajardo was the biggest story of the game and with good reason. I don’t think there’s any other player in the PBA that could garner 15 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks and call it an “off-night.” He struggled mightily against the well-crafted defensive gameplan of Talk ‘N Text. Instead of simply swarming him whenever he gets the ball, the double and triple teams were well-timed and positioned as they took advantage of his tendency to survey the floor for a few seconds before making his move. A double team (usually Ganuelas-Rosser or Larry Fonacier) would then come from the baseline. This served to not only blinside him, but to deny his favorite dropstep/spin move that was a bit unstoppable in game 1. Add to that the physicality of the Texters’ bigs and it was hell for Fajardo. He finally broke through when San Miguel needed him the most. After only scoring 5 points in the first three quarters, he scored 10 of the Beermen’s last 11 points to clinch it. Recognizing the Texters’ early penalty situation, he simply bullied his way into the paint and fished for fouls. He was a perfect 8 of 8 from the line. His other two points? He posted up on the left block, saw a rare open baseline, spun, split two defenders, and evaded a third with a surprise Eurostep for the layup.
He ended his night a perfect 11/11 from the line; a rare feat for a 6-10 big man. That was primarily why he could shoot just 18% from the field (2 of 11) but still end up with a respectable true shooting percentage of 47.3%. It was nice to see him bounce back quickly as he was able to repay his teammates for the keeping the game close.
For the succeeding games, Coach Leo Austria will have to adjust as Talk ‘N Text will likely use the same gameplan as it was largely successful. Two possible tweaks could be taken from Fajardo’s two made field goals. The first was off a pick and roll between him and Cabagnot, who found him with a good high pass that lead to an And-1. Coach Austria might need to incorporate some more pick and rolls with either Cabagnot or Chris Lutz as the ball handler to get Fajardo the ball one the move, like the following:
The second field goal was the aforementioned Eurostep. That happened because he attacked almost immediately when he got the ball. The Texters take about 2-3 seconds before they commit to the double-team. Fajardo may need to attack that window a few times instead of just waiting for it every time.
Best Player of the Game: Alex Cabagnot
Speaking of Cabagnot, he continued to have a great impact off the bench. This time around, he was named BPoG after registering 21 points (8/14 FGs, 3/5 threes) and 3 rebounds versus just 1 turnover in 28 minutes. He (along with Santos’ eight assists) simply took over in that first quarter barrage where he scored 12 points. He simply scorched Castro on offense, shooting stepbacks and contested jumpers everywhere. None were greater than a banked three-pointer with the shot clock winding down. It was even more amazing when you consider he had an insane TS% of 68.5%. That is extremely high for a guy that spends almost all his time on the perimeter. He was able to take command of the offense for much of the time, making things happen for an offense that missed its top two scorers.
Towards the end of the third period, with the offense needing a bit of a jolt, Coach Austria went with his own version of a small ball lineup with Cabagnot, Ronald Tubid/Marcio Lassiter, Lutz, Santos, and Rico Maierhofer. Despite the reed-thing frontline, they more than made up for it with speed and length. They wreaked havoc on Talk ‘N Text as they were all over the court hustling for loose balls, forcing turnovers, and scoring in transition. They pretty much took a page out of the Texters’ book. The surplus of energy proved to jumpstart everyone else as they were able to grab the lead during that stretch. Maierhofer (7 boards, 1 steal, 1 block in 15 minutes) and Tubid (7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal in 18 minutes) in particular was fantastic as they were everywhere, especially on the glass. They get much of the credit for making this lineup work. Lutz started to pour it on in that third quarter as he ended with 14 points. Even Lassiter was displaying a lot of emotion for someone who usually keeps a straight face. It was definitely an interesting change of pace and worked extremely well in Coach Austria’s favor and something I hope to see more of in the coming games.
- 11 of the 12 players fielded in scored, a testament to the system that allows everyone to get scoring opportunities; the bench accounted for 43 points
- Jeric Fortuna didn’t play a whole lot but his six minutes were still equally important, as he held down the fort with Chris Ross and Cabagnot in foul trouble in the third quarter
- As expected, it was pretty physical from the get-go as Tubid and Maierhofer got into a few tussles with Danny Seigle and Kelly Williams. It only escalated in the fourth quarter as the Texters tried to pay rough with Ryan Reyes hitting Lassiter twice (a poke in the eye and a shove) while Williams threw two blatant elbows while guarding Fajardo. That backfired badly as they were called for three quick fouls, which Fajardo took full advantage of to get to the line.
After showing they could blow out the opposition, San Miguel displayed how they could dig down and win ugly through gritty play. Teams of the past would have crumbled under the pressure but it’s a different case now. They are learning to trust each other and in the system. Hopefully, they can carry this to what will be a bloodier game three.
Featured Image Credit: Paul Mata, Sports5
Video Credit: PBARecap.org (GIF form: Instagiffer)