That was unexpected.
No, I wasn’t surprised that Rain or Shine was able to pull out the opening game 91-83 win, especially with James Yap (11 points on 3-13 shooting from the field), not being able to finish the game because of what could be a hyperextended knee.
What stood out from last night’s game though, was the defensive ploy Coach Tim Cone used to defend Paul Lee.
Instead of assigning capable defenders like Intal or Gonzales to defend the angas ng Tondo, San Mig Coffee went to Power Forward Marc Pingris as the team’s main answer to the Leethal weapon.
Normally, match-ups like this one aren’t ones that are desired. Often, teams will run a series of pick and rolls just to get this kind of mismatch which will allow their guards to dance circles around the big man that’s left stuck on an island and yet, San Mig Coffee sought it out. Granted, Marc Pingris’ toughness and defensive intensity may be considered Garnett like and to his credit, he was able to contain Lee, who just finished with 15 points for the game (but 9 out of those came on a game defining 4th quarter for the Elasto Painters). However, with San Mig Coffee’s game plan revolving around scoring inside the paint, making Pingris chase Paul Lee around the perimeter surely affected the Mixers inside presence, most notably on defense.
Without Pingris locking down the paint and with Jeff Chan’s range finally deadly again, Rain or Shine bigs Rodriguez and Belga were able to score 15 and 13 points respectively, while Jervy Cruz buffeted on rebounds, grabbing a total of 15 boards, 7 of which came at the offensive end.
Tim Cone’s Game 1 gamble proved to be a reach, but kudos to him for trying to shake things up and throwing a curve ball at Coach Yeng. With King James potentially missing the next game or even the series, it’ll be interesting to see what the Mixers will come up with next as they try to bounce back and even the series.
Game two’s gonna be good. That, we can expect.