The San Miguel Beermen played probably their most underwhelming game of the season in a disastrous 90-74 beating by the cellar-dwelling Meralco Bolts. It was simply a lackadaisical effort on both ends as they looked to simply go through the motions from start to finish. This is probably one of the worst offensive showings I have ever seen from them. The first half was typical San Miguel as they started out slow and sluggish, allowing Meralco to build a lead as big as 11. They fought back in the second quarter though to gain a one point lead going into the half. It all went downhill from there as the Bolts used a blistering 31-point 3rd quarter to take their biggest lead and from then on, they never looked back. We’ll talk more about that quarter but for now, let us review our keys to the game. Do note that box scores are not available as of this writing so I’ll be going with a simple eye test and some statistics that were presented during TV5’s coverage.
Keys to the Game
Don’t give up easy looks
San Miguel just did the complete opposite and allowed Meralco to just run right through to a victory. I’m pretty sure that the Bolts had more than twice their fastbreak point average of 8.8 as they repeatedly pushed the pace on turnovers and missed shots. The Beermen’s transition defense was nowhere to be seen as guys were not even making an effort to run back down the floor. They seemed content in letting them score thinking they could just get those buckets back. It also didn’t help that they were plagued once again by rebounding issues as Meralco kept attacking the glass and gang-rebounding. They didn’t necessarily score a lot of 2nd chance points but it did give them even more opportunities to score. Simply put, San Miguel just made it way to easy for them.
Reggie Williams was the complete opposite of aggressive as he only tallied 17 points and 6 rebounds on a bad shooting night. He did have more attempts from the line this time around as he was in the 7-9 range but everything else was bad as he barely impacted the game. He was extremely passive even when San Miguel’s offense was clearly not working. This was one of those times that he could have taken over and attempted every shot himself. He could have been the spark the offense needed to hum but he was content on just standing on the 3-point arc waiting for kick-outs. He was just out of it this game.
Make it simple
As I said before, one of San Miguel’s problems is that they don’t play inside out and take too long to really get into their sets. The guards in particular were just passing around the perimeter. Even when they did get screens from their bigs, they would not use it to take it strong to the basket. The result was a lot of bad shots, jumpers, not even inside points, which only served to fuel Meralco transition attack. No adjustments were made either. Again, it was the complete opposite as they made it so hard for themselves to score.
Arwind Santos vs Cliff Hodge
Cliff Hodge clearly won this match-up as reigning MVP Arwind Santos was nowhere to be seen. He actually had more fouls than points (5 points, 6 fouls) and bricked almost every jumper he took. It didn’t help that he wasn’t much of a factor on the glass and defensive end either. He was nonexistent in his 30 or so minutes out there, which San Miguel can’t afford with their bench already doing poorly. Hodge on the other hand was everywhere this game. He didn’t score as much (12 points) but he was always attacking the offensive glass, helping his team secure more possessions.
Game Notes and Other Observations
The Lone Bright Spot (again)
Leading MVP-candidate June Mar Fajardo was the only one who had a good game in this one. He ended with 22 points and a bunch of rebounds (14 was my last count). What made his performance more impressive was that he did this while everyone else simply refused to pass him the ball. He was the only effective scorer for the team (12 points in the 1st half) but could not get his touches as most of his points came off of offensive rebounds. Meralco’s defense seemed content in doubling/tripling/swarming him whenever he made his move to the basket. But on the catch they were not fronting him aggressively like Talk ‘N Text or San Mig Coffee which is why I scratch my head wondering why no one could make a decent post entry pass even if Fajardo was right in front of them. So many times Fajardo fought for a good seal and is waved off with guards passing to someone else in the perimeter, which doesn’t give him enough time to re-post. Sol Mercado, Ronald Tubid, Santos and Williams are all guilty of this as I only saw about three good entry passes from them all game. It’s a problem the coaching staff has to address as they won’t get very far if they can’t even get their best player the ball on a consistent basis.
No D in SMB
Where was the defense? All game long they could not stop anybody out there. There was no concerted effort to keep guys in front of them and transition defense was especially slow. This killed them in Meralco’s third quarter storm. Chief among my concerns was the defense against Mario West. He tallied 40 points on a hyper-efficient 17 of 25 field goal shooting (17 points in the third). What’s worse is that about 10 of those makes were probably layups as he routinely strolled through San Miguel’s defense right to the hoop. He was already hot in the 1st half as Williams couldn’t do anything to stop him. There was no adjustment either as West remained hot the entire game. Sometimes it’s a good strategy to just let the import score every point but San Miguel didn’t exactly stop everyone else, with good performances from Reynel Hugnatan (10 points) and Rey Guevarra (8 points). West was constantly attacking in transition as well. I would have been fine with them struggling to score but couple that with their inability to defend anyone? That is just a recipe for disaster.
The PG situation
The coaching staff has to do something to address their PG situation. With Chris Ross and Paolo Hubalde still out for about a month, Mercado and Chico Lanete haven’t exactly been stellar so far. In this game, Mercado was miserable on offense as he jacked up jumpers and drived mindlessly into the paint. Lanete on the other hand was chucking shots in his limited playing time. A trade seems out of the question at this point with such a compact schedule. One solution may be to have Williams run the point instead seeing as his floor vision is pretty good. Either way, if San Miguel doesn’t fix it soon, Ross and Hubalde might not have a playoff to return to.
Overall, simply a bad game for San Miguel as a win could have clinched a playoff berth. Instead, they let go of what could’ve been their easiest match as their next two opponents in Air21 and Ginebra will make it a lot tougher for them to secure a top 4 spot, especially with their terrible quotient so far. They can’t get any lower, right? Hopefully that is the case as anymore performances like this and they will find themselves in a world of disappointment once more.