It was another day and another loss for the San Miguel Beermen, dropping their fourth consecutive game, falling to the Alaska Aces, 100-107, in the Philippine Cup Finals rematch. San Miguel finally got some local production going (four players in double-digit scoring), but it wasn’t enough to combat an injury-riddled Alaska squad.
As was usual last conference, San Miguel got to a blazing start, seemingly clicking over their five-day layoff as they led by as much as 11 before ending the first period, 27-19. In the second period however, Alaska, being Alaska, came roaring back thanks in no small part to their full court press. They were able to force several turnovers and even took a brief five-point lead before the Beermen recovered to take a small one-point margin at the break. It appeared as though they were back; the three-point shots were falling and June Mar Fajardo looked like his usual self. It was pretty nip and tuck in the third, with no team able to make much ground. As has been the case for the first three games however, the Beermen lost steam in the fourth in the face of the Aces tightening up their defense and increasing the pressure. They built their largest lead of the game at nine (91-100) and the Beermen never recovered.
Offense wasn’t really a problem for San Miguel as they were able to keep up with the high pace of the game. They shot a great percentage from the field, including a 32.3% clip from deep. They were also moving the ball well en route to a 20-19 assist advantage. They took advantage of hard doubles on Fajardo in the post by swinging the ball quickly to the open man. Shot selection was also on point.
Fifty three percent of their attempts in the paint and 36% beyond the arc is as efficient as it gets. The emphasis to get the ball in the paint also helped them to generate free throws on 31.6% of their possessions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all rosy as the turnovers just piled up for them, especially in the second and fourth periods. It’s not a coincidence that Alaska made their big runs in those instances. Their free throw shooting also came back to haunt them. Seventeen misses in a relatively close seven-point loss? That is certainly a tough pill to swallow.
Defensively, San Miguel showed flashes of their old selves but it wasn’t enough. Their interior defense continues to be sub par.
Though they did a good job running them off the three-point line, they couldn’t do much once the Aces got to the rim. They attempted 57% of their shots from that area leading to a huge 60-point total.
Once again, the Beermen couldn’t take advantage of their strengths (offensive rebounding and free throws) and faded down the stretch. It’s been an ugly repetition of their four games.
- This proved to be Ronald Roberts, Jr.’s swan song as he will be replaced by two-time Best Import awardee, Arizona Reid. He finished the game with 24 points and 14 rebounds, but did so on a really low 45.3% TS, especially for a big man import. He was also a big reason for the Beermen’s freethrow struggles with his 8/17 clip. This game served to further highlight his weakness as a scorer. San Miguel force-fed him the ball in the post early in the fourth quarter which really bogged down their offense. His lack of an inside game and inability to pass really hurt him there. It’s not that he’s a bad player, but he’s just not a great fit for the team. He’s still young and has potential so I wish him good luck.
- Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter finally broke out of their respective slumps. Lassiter scored a conference-high 18 points (5/11 from deep, including four triples in the first half). He’s always been a streaky shooter but it’s great to see him finally hit his shots. Meanwhile, Fajardo had a monster outing with a near triple-double of 21 points (61.2% TS, 6/11 FGs, 9/14 FTs), 17 rebounds, and seven assists. Early on, he took advantage of Alaska’s double-teams by finding the open man for easy shots. In the second half, he went to work in the paint. He continued his strong play on the offensive glass as well, rebounding 18.8% of his team’s misses.
- With Alex Cabagnot sidelined, Jeric Fortuna took the bulk of the back-up PG duties and did terribly. In 19 minutes, he was 1/5 from deep and had just one assist versus three turnovers. He definitely looked like a guy who hadn’t played for a while as he looked lost. He was also unable to handle the Aces’ pressure very well.
- Bench scoring was at a lopsided 72-13 for Alaska. Alaska had five bench players play close to 20 minutes while San Miguel only had two. They’ve never relied on a high scoring bench but the lack of minutes and production is worrying. Ronald Tubid was the only one to contribute (6 points, 1/6 3PTs, 6 rebounds). Since San Miguel is dealing with fatigue and key injuries, it might do Coach Leo Austria some good to expand his rotation.
- Speaking of injuries, Cabagnot has been dealing with a partially torn hamstring since the Philippine Cup. Since hamstring injuries are always tricky, I expect him to be out for a while. In addition, Arwind Santos suffered a knee contusion, limiting him to just seven minutes of play. Those are some really big blows for San Miguel, which is why they may need to dig deeper into their bench.
This loss puts them in a bit of a pickle as they have to win five of their remaining seven games just to have a chance to enter the playoffs. With a three-day layoff, improved play from the locals, and an import change, they hopefully have enough to bring down the still undefeated Meralco Bolts on Saturday and start to gain some sort of momentum down the line.
Featured Image Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports5