Many tagged the San Miguel Beermen as favorites to win their third straight Philippine Cup championship given their intact core. To start off the season, the Beermen looked nothing like the title favorites that they were expected to be.
They were sluggish at most times, looking unmotivated. If it weren’t for Junemar Fajardo’s monster performances, the Beermen may have lost most of the games which they have played thus far. On the horizon for them was an NLEX team that was hungry for a victory after losing their first four games.
Somehow, the Beermen woke up and rained down on the Road Warriors to grab their third straight win.
Rained down is the perfect way to describe how SMB managed to beat NLEX. The reigning Philippine Cup champions hit a whopping 18 three pointers, which accounted for 54 of the 106 points which they scored. This was a stark contrast to their other games where they mostly used brute force led by Fajardo to get the job done.
That’s not to say that Junemar wasn’t able to contribute, as he was still able to post an “okay” (by his standards) line of 15 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks. This time around, backing him up were Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos, who each had 18 and 15 points respectively.
As good as the Beermen were on offense, they were also stellar on the defensive end. They limited the Road Warriors to just 34.5 percent shooting from the field, with all but one of their starters (Tito Raul Soyud) hitting less than 50 percent of their baskets. The struggles of the Road Warriors from the field also translated to awful free throw percentages for them, hitting just 16 of their 30 free throw attempts.
The Beermen now find themselves on top of the standings at 4-1. Initially, they looked vulnerable, relying mostly on June Mar. But with their shooting coming into play, they look like the title contenders which many expected them to be entering the season.
For the Road Warriors, the team still cannot seem to click under new head coach Yeng Guiao. Their offense is the worst in the league, posting just an 83.9 ORTG for the conference thus far. If anything, the team is still trying to get themselves acclimated with the system of Coach Yeng after being under Coach Boyet Fernandez for so long. It will only be a matter of time before the Road Warriors get things going. For now, however, they continue to struggle and learn.