Good offense, but just not enough defense for the San Miguel Beermen as they fell 103-97 to Talk ‘N Text. After an ugly 1st half for both teams, where they struggled on both sides of the floor, the Beermen relied on their inside game while the Texters drilled shots from distance. Despite brilliant performances from Reggie Williams (33 points, 10 assists), June Mar Fajardo (20 points, 14 rebounds), and Arwind Santos (18 points), San Miguel just could not get it done. The difference? A lacking defense. Before any of that, let us first look at some key stats and review the keys to the game.
|3PT%||2PT%||eFG%||FB ATT||FB PTS||TOV PTS|
Talk 'N Text
One thing that kept San Miguel going was their constant transition attack. They forced the action after every missed shot or steal, resulting in 15 FB points in the 1st half alone. It helps when you have Sol Mercado, Reggie Williams, and Chris Lutz anchoring this attack. Both teams also made it a point to take advantage of turnovers. The main difference however, was is in the shooting efficiency where TNT had considerable success from beyond the arc, which helped offset their slight disadvantage in the 2 point area.
Keys to the Game
Don’t make it a shootout
To put it simply, San Miguel let it devolve into a shootout. As I mentioned, both teams struggled with their offense in the 1st half, where TNT only shot 20% from the three-point line. As has always been the case with Norman Black-coached teams, TNT turned it up in the 2nd half, dropping three after three after three. They ended the night with 14 made threes and upped their shooting to 42.4%. Team captain Jimmy Alapag led TNT’s 4th quarter charge as he scored 12 of his 18 points in the quarter on 3 shots from distance. He managed to turn an 85-all tie into a 99-92 lead in a span of 4 minutes, showing why he remains to be one of the most dangerous marksmen in the PBA. For San Miguel, they had enough offense to be able to trade buckets but could not produce enough stops down the stretch as they left TNT’s shooters wide open multiple times.
Stop their 1-2 punch
Ranidel de Ocampo didn’t have that much on an impact scoring-wise in his 35 minutes of action, only tallying 6 points, although he did have 4 offensive rebounds and 6 assists. Santos and the rest of the frontline did a good job in limiting his scoring opportunities, keeping him out of the paint. Jayson Castro, on the other hand, was a different matter altogether as he scored a very efficient 21 points (3 of 4 from three, 4 of 7 from two, eFG% of 77.3 percent) in only 23 minutes. Much of the damage he caused came in the 3rd quarter when he was guarded by a Chico Lanete that could not keep up with him. By the time Sol Mercado came back in the 4th to guard him, it was simply too late as Castro was already on a hot streak.
Mercado had himself another good outing: 34 minutes, 7 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and only 1 turnover. The one thing he really needs to work on is his outside shot as he had another 1-for-4 night. As opposed to their last performance, Chris Lutz and Ronald Tubid did not have good games. Lutz did have 4 points and 2 steals but his 3 turnovers (one of them late in the 4th) was a little costly. Tubid on the other hand could not hit a shot, knocking down only 1 of his 6 three-pointers. Since he is taking the place of Marcio Lassiter as designated gunner, he has to be able to knock those down.
Before the game, I had high hopes that Lanete would be able to make a difference. He only tallied 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, and 3 turnovers in 11 minutes. He simply looked overmatched out there having to guard Alapag and Castro on different occasions. And that stretch probably decided the game as it helped TNT’s offense get going and become unstoppable in the 4th. With Chris Ross and Paolo Hubalde expected to miss a month, San Miguel will have problems going forward if Lanete will be abused repeatedly by opposing PGs.
Sol Mercado vs Jayson Castro
The only time they really spent guarding each other was in the 4th, which was probably what decided the match with Lanete forced to guard Castro. When Mercado had his chance, he did okay. A memorable play was when he prevented Castro from getting inside the 3 point arc with about 40 seconds left in the game, which would’ve allowed San Miguel to get a bit closer.
Game Notes and Other Observations
This is a game where they really missed Chris Ross’ defense against Alapag and Castro. He would have made it harder for them to score through pesky hands and pressure defense. One other aspect is that he would have forced them to work hard on defense to keep him from scoring inside the paint through post ups or drives. With Lanete, they just had to prevent him from knocking down threes.
The Big 3
It was an excellent night for Williams, Fajardo, and Santos as they scored 71 of the Beermen’s 97 points. Williams exploded for 23 points in the 2nd half after only scoring 9 in the 1st. What was on display however was his passing ability, as he dished out 10 assists (8 in the 2nd half alone), showing his underrated court vision. My personal favorites were 2 separate full court passes to a streaking Santos and Lutz that led to layups. Speaking of Santos, he scored 12 of his 18 points in the 1st half, when everyone was struggling to get the ball to go through the hoop. He ended the night shooting 7 of 12 from the 2 point area as well as grabbing 3 offensive rebounds. The negatives were his 3 point shooting, 1 of 5, and turnovers, as he had 2 trying to get Fajardo the ball against a swarming TNT defense.
Fajardo himself had a pretty poor 1st half, thanks to Coach Black and Noy Baclao. The stats show he had 5 points and 7 rebounds vs Baclao’s 6 and 3 but Baclao outmuscled and outworked him for much of that half. An in-game report mentioned that he was still experiencing pain and discomfort from a twisted ankle and that may have been the cause, but his effort was still very poor. And that was probably what woke him up as he scored a blistering 15 points in the 3rd quarter alone. He just obliterated TNT’s entire frontline. It didn’t matter to him if it was Baclao, Rob Reyes, or Kelly Williams. He went to the basket at will. TNT recovered though and clamped down on him in the 4th, where he did not score a single point.
Looking at the boxscore, Rico Maierhofer (6 minutes) and Justin Chua (1 minute) barely had any playing time partly due to a good performance by Santos and Doug Kramer (17 minutes, 8 points, 5 rebounds). Maierhofer is a good spark plug off the bench while Chua needs the minutes to actually develop and grow. I would like them to get on the court a little more, especially with Fajardo still dealing with a sore left ankle and his history with nagging leg injuries this season, it would be a good time to find more rest for him by playing the other bigs a little more.
By any measure, I wasn’t really disappointed with this loss. This is a fully loaded and healthy Talk ‘N Text team we’re talking about. The main takeaway from this game: San Miguel can score any time they want and however they want. They have flashes of that brilliant team defense they are capable of but the question will always be whether or not they can defend when they need to.