The San Miguel Beermen bowed down to the Alaska Aces, 66-63, in what was a highly physical, grind-it-out affair. The Beermen had their lowest point total of the season as well. They had a respectable 38 at halftime, but only scored 25 the rest of the way. As expected, the Aces’ combination of full court pressure and zone defense simply stifled their offense. As a result, their offensive execution (or lack of it), especially in the second half, was simply awful. With this loss, they go down a still respectable 3-1, tied with Barangay Ginebra for second place in the standings. But how exactly did they lose?
No Spacing = Big Problems
1st 3 games
The biggest negative was their poor night from distance. After making 7 threes at a respectable 32.3% clip in their first 3 games (9/20 in their last game), they only hit 3 of their 27 attempts, a horrendous 11.1%. Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos were the biggest culprits, a combined 1/13. That is a huge problem for a team that needs to hit June Mar Fajardo in the post for their halfcourt offense to work. With San Miguel’s marksmen shooting blanks, Alaska promptly packed the paint, denied entry passes to Fajardo, and dared the Beermen to beat them from the outside. And that’s just the beginning.
Speaking of Fajardo, their inability to feed him the ball all night was a problem. You can just compare the two halves. In the first, he was able to find cutters and open shooters for easy baskets, resulting in some good ball movement. He had 3 assists by halftime and probably had some more hockey passes as well. The second was a different story all together as he barely got the ball. One part of it was Alaska’s great denial defense, especially Sonny Thoss and Sam Eman. But another was him being waved off or ignored in favor of wayward drives to the rim or contested jumpers. Even when they tried involving him in the pick and roll, Alaska just shut down the paint against any kind of penetration. With San Miguel’s inability to hit threes, they were in big trouble. I know the defense was tough, but this team can’t go entire stretches without getting their best player the ball. It was pretty ugly to watch as the ball was just stuck in the perimeter and eerily reminded me of how they played last season when pressured. Bottom line is that if they can’t space the floor, they can’t get clean looks to Fajardo down low, leading to less efficient shots, playing right into the defense’s hands.
Defending Without Fouling
|Team||2PTs(2PT%)||PTS in the Paint||FTs(PFs)|
One good thing the Beermen did was lock up the paint. Santos and Fajardo were brick walls on that side of the floor, swallowing up almost every player that dared attempt a shot at the rim. They combined for 7 of the team’s 8 blocks as well as altering a lot more. That led to the poor percentage of the Aces in the 2-point area and their paltry total from the paint. San Miguel did a poor job of avoiding fouls however as they had the same foul total as Alaska, but gave away more freethrow opportunities. The Aces took full advantage. They had issues getting into penalty early and fouling guys going up for shot attempts instead of playing good, honest defense. As expected, Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel were the main culprits. Manuel especially went to work against the lighter Santos and the inexperienced David Semerad.
The PG Problem
Stability at the point guard position continues to be an issue. My biggest gripe with their play is that they could not take charge when the team went through a dry spell due to Alaska’s pressure defense. Instead of trying to organize the offense, they themselves tried to solve it by going 1-on-1. They were virtually running zero plays at that point. Sol Mercado had his moments, but largely kept trying to score in the second half. I know he has a scorer’s mentality, but I would like for him to get his shot within the flow of the offense (like in then first half) instead of forcing it. Chris Ross didn’t have a good game either but you can see the plus-minus difference, largely because San Miguel finally showed a semblance of an offense in the last 2 minutes of the third.
Santos continues to impress as he was the lone bright spot in last night’s game. After seemingly coming back down to earth in the first half (only 4 points on 2/8 FGs, just 1 rebound), he made up for it in the second with his scoring and rebounding. He ended the night with 14 points (5/15 FGs , 4/9 from 2), 9 boards, 2 steals, and 4 blocks. He had several key moments, including a scoring binge in the third quarter, and 2 monster rejections on an Abueva putback and Thoss dunk attempt. This game saw the potential of a defensive tandem that’s been talked about ever since drafting Fajardo. I’ve been one of his biggest critics but with performances like this, he looks more and more like his 2011 self. One can only hope it continues on to the playoffs.
A Subpar Scoring Night
Not a good scoring night for the reigning MVP, 10 points on 4/10 FGs and 2/4 FTs. He just barely got his double-double. He did make up for it with tremendous rebounding (16 total, 9 offensive) and interior defense (3 blocks). That is good to see whenever he is struggling to get his points. There was a little bad luck involved in that as his one-handers were just rimming out (let’s not forget that blown open layup/dunk). As mentioned earlier, the team also struggled getting him the ball.
One thing to note that might make it easier for them is to clear out his side of the court. A lot of the time he has teammates on the corner and wing as options to get him the ball. The effect however is that he gets triple-teamed as there are too many players around. They also tend to swing the ball to the other side or throw entry passes even before he gets good post position. It may simply be due to the new system and hence, the lack of timing but definitely something they have to clean up.
- David Semerad’s relentless playstyle continues to be a good positive. He’s really someone I look forward to getting some more minutes, especially if he can avoid unnecessary fouls. But that’s really part of his game, the aggression, hustle, and fight. It’s fun to watch him all over the court.
It was a terrible game played all around, exposing a lot of issues with the team, especially when faced with pressure defense. They have a few days to recover and hopefully recover their groove. This loss isn’t the end of the world for them as they still have 5 games to go. It’s hard for me to see them get down from this loss this early.
Featured Image Credit: Mon Rubio, The Shaded Lane