The San Miguel Beermen (3-2) emerged victorious, adding another great game under their belt at the expense of the struggling Star Hotshots (1-3). They led by as much as 17 in the first half in what was a dominant display on both ends of the court. The Hotshots wouldn’t go quietly into the night as they quickly pounded the lead down to single-digits in the third quarter. It went down to as low as five points in the last two minutes of the game. The Beermen needed some clutch baskets from Arizona Reid to finally put them away. The aforementioned Reid led the way in the scoring department once again, pouring in 29 points on 47.8 TS%. He couldn’t replicate his 80% clip from distance against GlobalPort (just 1/6) but that didn’t really matter much with how unstoppable he was inside. He also contributed 11 boards and four dimes. June Mar Fajardo was named Best Player of the Game for his sixth career 20-20 game, recovering nicely from a poor showing last time out.
For the third straight game, the Beermen won on the strength of their defense. Not only were they aggressive guarding the man with the ball, they also showed great ball denial, especially on numerous cuts the Hotshots employ as part of the triangle. In effect, the Hotshots couldn’t really set up their offense in or around the paint. That also meant that they couldn’t take advantage of big-to-big passing or cuts to the rim, something that has killed the Beermen numerous times before. They did a good job funneling penetration into Fajardo whenever he was in the game, making sure that if the opposition could into the paint, they would have to contend with Fajardo’s height (leading to his four blocks and many alterations). This also led to the Hotshots attempting more threes than usual (25 3PTA compared to just 15.5 in their first three games), contributing even more to the Beermen’s efforts to shut down the interior. They could hardly move the ball either with ball denial everywhere – just 12 assists on 32 makes for them. Their shot chart is further proof of this:
Of course, their offense was no slouch either. I mentioned in my pregame how the Beermen should try to push the pace a bit to make the Hotshots uncomfortable. Turns out, they didn’t need to as they were perfectly fine slowing it down and playing the halfcourt game, in effect keeping their turnovers low. They got a lot of good looks from a lot of motion, a welcome change from the stagnant one-on-one action (aka watch Reid or Fajardo do something) last conference.
Lastly, the Beermen’s rebounding was simply superb as they held a huge 57-39 edge. Taking it even further, they grabbed 47.8% of their misses, 73.3% of the Hotshots’ misses, and 60.4% overall. If that doesn’t spell dominance, then check this: Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, and Alex Cabagnot totaled 18 rebounds, 11 more than ALL of the Hotshots’ bigs not named Blakely combined. Marc Pingris had six, Mick Pennisi had just one, and Joe De Vance a suprising zero.
Don’t Poke the Kraken
Early on, you wouldn’t know Fajardo would put up a monster game with how lackadaisical he looked. In fact, he looked headed for another six-point output. An early substitution, a little shouting from Reid, and getting blocked by Blakely woke up the Kraken so to speak. From that point on, he looked more like his MVP self. He was able to get a lot more touches (24.1 USG%). His performance on the boards was particularly great. He was, literally, the biggest factor considering his rebounding splits of 27.7/28.4/28. His ability to rebound close to 30% of misses on both ends is just monstrous. Injuries will be his only obstacle and the Beermen should pray that he stays healthy.
I’ve always mentioned how Reid and Fajardo couldn’t do it all alone. Their teammates certainly answered the call. Ross put on another good performance with 14 points on 54.7 TS%, seven boards, three assists, and three steals, living up to his old monicker as the “Filipino Rondo.” Alex Cabagnot played a lot better, spending a majority of the time beside Ross in a two-PG set-up. He filled the stat sheet with 13 points on 54.7 TS%, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, and even two blocks off the bench. These are the types of games that show how he can be effective without dominating the ball so much. Marcio Lassiter cooled off as he hit just one of his seven three-point attempt, but made up for it with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals. These three were at the forefront of the great defense the Beermen played. They also showed that they don’t have to score to have a great impact on the game. Arwind Santos finally broke out of his funk with 12 points, four rebounds, and two blocks in just 24 minutes. Like Cabagnot, he was able to do more with less: less attempts and less minutes. Again, he doesn’t have to score as much with the presence of Reid, but can still affect the game through smart shot selection, rebounding, and rim protection.
Chris Lutz hasn’t had a great conference so far (2.8 points, 1.4 rebounds, 2 assists). Here, he only played six minutes and registered just one block and no attempts. His minutes are down from 30.7 to 18.9 and started just one game. It’s hard for me to believe he’s fallen out of the rotation, especially with him being arguably their best facilitator and second-best one-on-one defender. Historically, his numbers have always gone down in import-laden conferences but it shouldn’t be this drastic given how well he performed in the last one. It speaks to the Beermen’s deep wing rotation that he’s struggling get consistent playing time. Hopefully, this clears up as he’s too talented to be limited to less than ten minutes a game.
All in all, Beermen fans should be glad to see the team regaining their championship form, from the suffocating defense to the smooth offense. There is still a long way to go but if they can keep playing this way and sort out their health issues, they’ll be on the right path. #FearTheBeer
Featured Image Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports5