SMC pulled surging Barangay Ginebra back to earth as they won, 102-90. It was a close game throughout the first three quarters, until the San Mig Coffee Mixers pulled away in the final 12 minutes to inflict Barangay Ginebra its first loss in four games. The game was close, with Ginebra leading by 2-3 points before collapsing in the end courtesy of the Mixers’ pressure defense that led to a 15-1 run which sealed the game.
Coach Tim Cone’s mastery of the triangle offense and the Mixers’ championship poise proved too much for the Kings to handle. Now comes the realization that they still have a long way to go with their new system as Cone’s wards exposed a lot of the weaknesses in Ginebra’s game. But all of this is a part of the learning curve, a fact that even Ginebra Coach Jeffrey Cariaso acknowledges. The good side is that Ginebra learned what they should improve on early in the tournament while they still have enough time to turn those weaknesses into strengths.
The important thing now is for Ginebra to ditch the memory of this ugly loss and focus on their next games.
Keys of the Game
Stop the Scoring Apostle
Stopping Mixers’ guard PJ Simon proved tough as he quickly scored 7 points in various ways in the early minutes of the game. Simon was able to utilize his height advantage against a smaller LA Tenorio which allowed him to score easy points (he’s been doing this the entire season, not just this conference.) With the Scoring Apostle hitting his stride early, he was able to keep the game close, answering back every time Ginebra got a basket or went on a run. In the end, Simon had 19 points (71 percent eFG, 9 of 13 from the field) and 3 rebounds. His sweet shooting could’ve been attributed to some birthday luck, but it seems that he’s been locked in this entire conference.
Early in the first half, Barangay Ginebra was doing a good job of hitting their shots from behind the arc. They were 3 of 4 from deep by the end of the second quarter. At the start of the 2nd half, the hot shooting looked to continue as LA Tenorio hit some crucial three point shots to keep the Mixers at bay.
However, everything went downhill from there as they were unable to convert 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter. It didn’t help that Baracael, Ginebra’s most consistent 3-point shooter (he averaged 2 markers from 3pt range before this game), had early foul trouble and was visibly out of rhythm as he finished with no made baskets in the game. To their credit the Kings though did finish the game with an impressive 7 of 16 showing (43.8 percent) from behind the arc, but couldn’t convert when it mattered the most.
Japeth Aguilar had 12 points (5 of 12, 41.7 percent FG) and 8 rebounds, but that wasn’t enough to help the Kings win this one against San Mig Coffee. He got bullied by Blakely on the defensive end and he never got himself going in the offensive end as the Mixers’ effectively challenged his every attempt towards the basket. This is by far one of Aguilar’s most productive game this conference, but he can’t allow himself to be bullied that easily on the defensive end. This is a good start, but Ginebra needs him to be more consistent if they want to make this conference a success.
Mark Caguioa vs James Yap
After having a quiet first quarter, Mark Caguioa came out with guns a-blazing in the second and through the rest of the game. The Spark scored an efficient 18 points (6 of 8, 81.2 percent eFG). James Yap on his part finished with a quiet 8 points, though Yap had the last laugh in this edition of Manila Clasico as San Mig Coffee Mixers came away with the win.
Ginebra’s import was overshadowed by his counterpart Marqus Blakely who had a monster game to totally dominate Ginebra and the game almost all by himself. Unlike Mason, Blakely was a huge factor in this game, taking over for his team especially during the crucial stretches of the game. Hopefully, this game helped the 23 year old Mason to learn that he will have to carry this Ginebra team more often than not.
Story of the Game
What Doomed Ginebra?
Up until their match against SMC, Ginebra was able to take good care of the ball and commit only a handful of turnovers. As seen in the table above, the Kings had very low TOV% against Meralco and Air21, but against San Mig Coffee’s tough defense they committed 20 turnovers with around half of those coming in the crucial payoff period. The Mixers’ took advantage of these turnovers and converted them into 19 turnover points.
In the end, SMC put the game away behind a 15-0 run manufactured through Coach Tim Cone’s full-court press, which pressured the Kings to throw away and rush most of their late game possessions.
This was truly a learning experience for both the team and the coaching staff and I hope that they will take these lessons with them to their next game.