The San Miguel Beermen and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters has had some good battles in the past and this series should be no different. Their first meeting this conference was almost two months ago on May 12 where SMB won 104-91. They led from start to finish on the backs of Arizona Reid and June Mar Fajardo who combined for 58 points. Interestingly enough, that was the first of their eight-game winning streak and the start of ROS’ slow climb. Well, things have changed and ROS are riding on the back of seven straight wins, including a double overtime thriller against the Barako Bull Energy.

Meralco certainly provided SMB a glimpse of what to expect from ROS. If they thought Reynel Hugnatan and company were tough, every Elasto Painter has that in spades, including head coach Yeng Guiao. They’re in for a highly physical series. Fajardo will face familiar foes in Extra Rice Inc. members Beau Belga and JR Quinahan as well as the thinner but much improved Raymond Almazan. Not only must he contend with their stiff defense, he also has to be wary of their shooting. Meralco really abused Hugnatan’s range to drag Fajardo out of the paint and take advantage of his slower foot speed. Unfortunately for the Kraken, Belga and Quinahan are just as adept and can shoot the three consistently. Even Almazan and import Wendell McKines can shoot the occasional jumper. SMB should expect ROS to employ a lot of pick and pop action to make him work, which means their defensive rotations can’t miss a beat. That’s where the comparisons end since Meralco likes to slow down the pace while ROS wants it to be as fast and as chaotic as possible. It’s now on SMB to control the pace and not let it go out of hand. Yes, they are almost as deadly in transition but their efficiency and patience in the halfcourt is still their biggest strength, especially with Fajardo on the court. There has to be a balance between those two.

SMB should also take a cue from Barako and how they managed to climb back from a huge deficit and almost score an upset win against ROS. They forced a ton of turnovers and dominated the offensive glass, two things SMB are more than capable of doing. Sticky defense from Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, and Ronald Tubid should be there as well as the rebounding prowess of Fajardo, Reid, and Arwind Santos. They could stand to also get a big boost from Chris Lutz and Alex Cabagnot. Lutz has certainly been the missing link this conference due to the stark decrease in his playing time. It’s hard to adjust but if he could take a cue from Tubid in how to be effective in limited minutes, that would be a huge help. Meanwhile, Cabagnot didn’t have the greatest of quarterfinals. He has a great opportunity to bounce back in this series with better decision-making.

Just as the on-court match-ups are interesting, so are the narratives surrounding this bout. At the forefront of that is Reid versus his old team, particularly the fiery Guiao. Of note were his comments of how he and the coaching staff didn’t want Reid back and claims of him giving up in a series against then Purefoods. If that doesn’t fire Reid up and put a chip on his shoulder, I don’t know what will.

This will be a dogfight, no doubt about it. But as long as SMB sticks to their strengths, they have a great chance of not only winning this game, but the whole series. Sparks will definitely fly but their quarterfinal challenge should have hopefully prepared and sharpened them for this one. #FearTheBeer

TIME: 7:00 PM

Featured Image Credit: Paul Ryan Tan and Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports5