San Miguel 104 – TNT 88
We’ve heard all the analysis before – the San Miguel Beermen are a super-stacked team.
That’s what they all say right? And to a certain extent, it’s true. Their starting five is one of the best in the business, perhaps THE best in the business. You have a backcourt of Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross, a fierce, take-no-prisoners, stone-cold shooter, and one of the top lockdown guards in the PBA. Then there’s the fiery Marcio Lassiter, capable of canning a triple from anywhere on the court. Add in the multi-faceted Arwind Santos, and June Mar Fajardo, no descriptions needed, and you have one of the most potent quintets in the league.
But what about their bench?
For the majority of the 2016-17 Philippine Cup, and especially in the semifinals, it’s been more of a group that you’ve heard of, than a group that’s contributed a lot.
RR Garcia was a star on his last team. Keith Agovida and Brian Heruela are up-and-comers. Gabby Espinas, JR Reyes, Ronald Tubid, and Yancy De Ocampo are known quantities. But production-wise, it’s been good enough that they hold down the fort. It’s the five that start the game that tilt things towards victory or defeat.
This isn’t a bad thing though, nor is it a slam on the SMB bench. When you have a starting five that’s this powerful, the bench really doesn’t have to do too much. But it became extremely noticeable in this postseason series. The starters have been putting in too much time. And when things are every-other-day, that kind of fatigue becomes telling, the longer the series goes along.
That’s why San Miguel’s game six win couldn’t have come in a better way.
TNT was up 53-45 at the break, and they extended their advantage to 12, 59-47, early in the third. Then that was when SMB made their run. A 23-10 run, to be specific, with reserves RR Garcia (7 points) and Gabby Espinas (4 points) doing a good bit of the damage. By the end of the third, SMB was up 70-69.
That breather gave the San Miguel starters their legs back. Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross did the majority of the damage to open the fourth. Then it was June Mar Fajardo’s turn to impose his will, and before you knew it, it was a double-digit San Miguel lead, and they never looked back. The Beermen even had the luxury of subbing in their bench dudes to finish things off.
Fajardo finished with a double-double, 23 points and 21 rebounds, plus four blocks. Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross combined for 33 points, seven rebounds, and 12 assists. Garcia and Espinas had 14 of their 20 bench points.
TNT meanwhile got 19 from Jayson Castro, and 12 apiece from Larry Fonacier and RR Pogoy. They badly missed Troy Rosario though, who got married on the same day.
SMB shot 44 percent from the field, 10-of-24 (41 percent) from beyond the arc. The Beermen also won rebounds, 57-46, and assists, 22-13.
It’d be easy to throw out cliches about San Miguel Beer wanting it more, or having the clutch gene, or reviving the “Beer-acle” chants. Those are valid (to a degree) storylines. But in this game, the difference was that bench, coming up when the Beermen needed it the most. Garcia and Espinas combined more than made up for Lassiter’s quiet outing (7 points, 2-of-5 shooting). And when you combine that with the big outings from the other four starters, it was just too much for the Tropa to handle.
Can they do it again in game seven? If they do, feel free to book SMB’s return to the Finals.
Source: SLAM Philippines