With only 5 days of rest after clinching the Commissioner’s Cup trophy, the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers are once again back on the hard court, starting their Governor’s Cup campaign this year with a 76-66 win over the Barako Bull Energy Cola.
It wasn’t one of those pretty games for the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers. In a short conference like the one we have right now, the Mixers were lucky to have escaped a tough one against a now well-coached Barako squad under new Head Coach Siot Tanquingcen. An ugly win indeed, but a win is a win; and these Mixers are going to take it.
Before breaking down why it wasn’t a pretty win for the Mixers, let’s look into our keys to the game in our pregame-primer and check what the positives are for the Mixers in this game.
Keys to the Game
As expected, Tim Cone started the game with his usual starters, James and PJ at the guard spot, Joe and Ping as the forwards, and Blakely as their Center. But as the game progressed, we saw the deliberate effort of Coach Tim to limit his starter’s (locals) minutes as they all logged under 30 minutes in this game. With this, the bench of the Mixers gave a good showing and provided ample support to the starters. The Mixers’ bench accounted for 34.2 percent of their total point production in this game (26/76 points).
Leading the shock troopers of Coach Tim was the returning Allein Maliksi. It was a good showing for him in his first game in eight months after suffering an ACL tear. He hit his first attempt of the game which gave him confidence and he finished the game with 8 points (60 percent eFG) to go with a rebound and a block in 15 minutes of play.
But overall, it was a well-balanced attack for the Mixers in terms of offense as 8 of the 11 fielded players in the game scored at least 5 points.
NO TIME FOR MILLER TIME
The Mixers were fortunate to face an unhealthy Willie Miller in this game still feeling the effects of a sprain which forced him to miss their first game of the conference. Miller was hardly a factor in this game scoring 4 points (2 of 5 shooting) in only 10 minutes of play.
After an impressive debut against Meralco, Eric Wise managed to put up a solid double-double stat line of 25 points (52.6 percent FG) and 15 (7 ORB) rebounds against the Mixers. Although these are impressive numbers, Wise struggled against the defense put up by the Mixers on him. Tim Cone alternated his big men on Wise which in turn forced the Barako Bull import to have long stretches during the game without a field goal or even getting entry passes from his teammates.
Missing from Wise’s game this time was his ability to find his open teammates. After dishing out 6 assists in his first game in the PBA, Wise was held down to only an assist in this game. The Mixers were successful in pushing him out of his comfort zone and visibly frustrated him the entire game. He fouled out of the ball game capping off his frustrating night against San Mig’s defense.
Digging their own grave, almost: poor defense
To say that the offense of San Mig against Barako was bad would probably be an understatement. How bad was it? Let’s break it down by the numbers.
As a returning import, it was quite a luckkuster game for Marqus Blakely on offense. He was hoisting difficult shots here and there that’s not in the flow of offense. He was obviously playing “gigil” (familiar term for San Mig’s imports: see James Mays) the entire game.
He finished the game with 10 points on only 4 of 16 shooting from the field (25 percent eFG%). He also struggled from the foul line (which continues to be his Achilles’ heel) shooting only 28.6 percent (2 of 7).
Although playing poorly offensively, Blakely still finished with a double-double, adding 24 rebounds (doing what he does best) to his stat line.
10 points for an import isn’t acceptable in this league. Luckily for Marqus, he got the patient Tim Cone as his coach. For me, he just needs to settle down and let go of that “gigil” and he’ll be fine. We all know and have witnessed what this guy can do. Hopefully, he goes back to his old ways soon.
AS A TEAM
San Mig’s offense thrives in efficient ball movement and this wasn’t the case against Barako. They only managed to dish out 10 assists (-6.9 below their average last conference) with an assist rate of only 13.5%. Their 15 turnovers didn’t help either as it resulted in 10 TO points and more fastbreak oppourtunities for Barako.
In a low-scoring game such as this one, every point mattered. San Mig failed to capitalize on their freethrows, shooting only 52 percent from the charity stripe (13 of 25).
This poor offense of theirs could have led to their downfall and to the L if not for timely hits by PJ Simon late in the 4th and of course their defense.
Defense saves the day
One good thing about the Mixers is that they prioritize defense. They don’t care how many points they score as long as the other team scores fewer points than them. In this game, it was their terrific defense saved the day for them.
They held Barako to their lowest output in a game in three seasons (as per @thepbaologist, Fidel Mangonon III) limiting them to only 66 points. Their defense forced Barako to take more outside, lower-percentage shots. This resulted into a disastrous 9.5 percent clip from the arc, (2 of 21) far from their average last conference of 33.8 percent.
The Mixers were also able to distrupt Barako’s offense stealing the ball 9 times and adding 9 blocks (14.5 BLK%) as well (Blakely, Pingris, Devance, and Melton with 2 each).
Based on this first game, the Mixers are back to square one. As Coach Tim said, right now, they are far from being a champion team. However, there’s no need to worry right now for this Mixers. It is still early in the conference and slowly but surely they will be able improve their play. We’ll be expecting improvements in their next game this Sunday against the San Miguel Beermen.