The San Miguel Beermen’s winning streak came to an abrupt end as they fell to the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, 107-101. Ironically, two former Beermen were the main culprits, Jay Washington and Danny Seigle as they both had something to prove. Despite the loss, San Miguel still remains at the top of the standings with an 8-2 record.
From the start of the game, there were already signs that San Miguel would be in trouble. They had the lead for much of the first half but they were playing to the pace of the Tropang Texters, fast and hectic. They showed they could play to that pace as they led by double digits in both the second and third quarters (the largest as 14). But turnovers plagued them all night and allowed the Texters to make a comeback, outscoring the Beermen 59-46 in the second half to seal it.
Talk ‘N Text,51.3%,11/28(39.3%),27.3%,9.0%,9,27
Offensively, San Miguel didn’t have problems scoring, evident by 4 players who scored in double-digits. They established their inside presence early and shot very good percentages across the board. This is probably one of their most efficient games this conference as they only average about 85.7 points per game (99.6 points per 100 possessions – 5th in the league). Their unusually low offensive rebounding numbers were indicative of this as there weren’t as many misses to grab.
The biggest issue was their careless turnovers. Against a team like Talk ‘N Text, you will get burned and San Miguel was burned all game long. They’re not really great at taking care of the ball – prior to this game they have been turning it over 14.8 times and in 14.7% of their scoring possessions (6th and 5th in the league). In this one, they turned it over a staggering 20 times and in 19.3% of their scoring possessions, which led to 27 turnover points for the opposition. A lot of these passes were attempts at getting June Mar Fajardo the ball inside. Talk ‘N Text did a good job of denying him the pass and making perimeter players rush theirs. Even though they didn’t score much in transition, they still took full advantage off all the miscues. Nothing negates a good scoring night like throwing the ball away. It’s no coincidence that the other time San Miguel had 20 miscues was in their only other loss against Alaska. I think they could’ve done a lot better especially with how they are much more familiar with Coach Leo Austria’s system.
No Defense, No Victory
More than the turnovers however, it was San Miguel’s defense that really cost them the game. They didn’t look much like the number one defensive team in the league that led them to this good record. Coach Austria hit the nail on the head as he mentioned how they tried, and failed, in outshooting and outgunning a squad like the Tropang Texters. Their defense on the perimeter was especially weak as they gave up 11 3s. What’s worse is that a majority of them were wide open off of penetration or a pick and roll (more on that later). They also couldn’t keep them off the line, giving up 26 freethrows. Overall, probably the worst defensive display by the Beermen so far this season.
I’d like to take note of how good of a gameplan Coach Jong Uichico came up with to attack San Miguel’s defense. They simply abused Fajardo’s defense as they had whoever he was guarding set a high pick for Jayson Castro. That posed huge problems for the rest of the Beermen on the floor because of Fajardo’s lack of lateral movement. They initially doubled Castro but the big kept getting free on the roll and the other players failed to rotate over to protect the paint. The Beermen adjusted eventually but the Tropang Texters would continually find an open shooter. When Fajardo sagged off to protect the paint and the roll man, Castro would just pull up for a midrange jumper. Coach Austria was forced to go zone in stretches and that didn’t help things it would either leave too much room for opposing players to penetrate or the defense would collapse leaving shooters open.
Fajardo also struggled with the plethora of quicker, shooting big men that Talk ‘N Text could employ. He just couldn’t get his defensive groove going as he had to guard a constant rotation of Washington, Seigle, Rob Reyes, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Harvey Carey. Those bigs combined for 54 points. This points to the biggest weakness right now of San Miguel: shooting big men and pick and roll coverage. More teams will likely employ the same tactic to make Fajardo a defensive liability. It’ll be a huge challenge but I’ve no doubt Coach Austria will find a way to adjust.
Chris Lutz had his best game of the conference as he tallied 25 points on a 12/16 shooting clip. He also added 4 boards and 4 assists. He didn’t get to the line but find a lot of ways to score, mostly on aggressive drives to the rim. He’s always had the potential as a go-to man and it showed as majority of his points came in the second half, when Fajardo was struggling to get the ball and Arwind Santos was off. I noted before how he usually found it difficult to drive with the attention given to Fajardo but was able to find a lot of lanes here. It’s just unfortunate that his conference-high came in a loss but performances like this are reassuring for him.
With Lutz in the starting lineup, Jeric Fortuna provided the scoring spark from the bench, norming 15 points on 6/9 shooting, including 3/5 from deep. He did all this in only 12 minutes on the floor. From the time he hit the court, he was already on fire, scoring 8 quick points in the second quarter. It’s probably one of the few questionable rotation choices done by Coach Austria as Fortuna was yanked in the fourth as he was getting hot and only put back in with about 3 minutes left, which was a little too late. It was definitely a hard choice as Chris Ross was having a pretty good game as well. Does he have a case for getting more minutes? I think so but that’s the difficulty of juggling 3 guys at the same position. Regardless, having a point guard like him is useful on nights that Ross or Sol Mercado are having off-nights, like in this game.
Overall, San Miguel got burned by trying to outshoot Talk ‘N Text and got away from their identity as a slow-it-down, defensive squad. At least they now know what some of their glaring weaknesses are. Fortunately, they’ll get another crack at locking up that outright semis spot.
Featured Image Credit: Jerome Ascano, Spin.ph